Monday, March 26, 2012

The Thirteenth Angry Man

posted by Brendon Votipka, Literary Intern

George Street Playhouse’s cast of Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men stars a slew of familiar famous faces, but who is that young man who plays the guard, standing in the back of the stage for the entire play? Andrew Nogasky is a soon-to-graduate actor pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts. Nogasky, in his last semester of three years of intensive training, was given the chance to audition for the role, a part that has let him work alongside established industry professionals. In his own words, that first audition was “a golden opportunity and a great beginning.” As literary intern, I had the chance to sit down with Andrew Nogasky, affectionately known as Andy to close friends, and pick his brain about what it’s like to work at a professional regional theatre while still being in graduate school.

Question: What were you thinking on the first day of rehearsal?

ANDY: Don't screw up. Probably not the most productive thought to have, but being surrounded by such wonderful, blazingly talented, affable professionals, I didn't want to slow them down. And it was hard not fall into the sheer awe of working on this play, with this director, and with this cast. These were men I've seen on Broadway, on television, in movies, and the Artistic Director of one of the most important regional theatres in America... and I'll be doing a play with them? Thankfully during the table read I kicked out of being awestruck and back into actor mode. But the most over-riding thoughts I had that day were how much fun this was going to be, and how lucky I was to be a part of it.

Question: What are you learning about your own creative process from working with experienced Broadway professionals?

ANDY: There are a few things that jumped out at me immediately. The first was where they all were the first day of rehearsal. We talk a lot in school about the prep you want to do before you begin rehearsal, but these men were deep into the process already. So many of their choices were clear and vibrant. You could really see they were masters of their craft.

Question: Your training at Mason Gross has a strong bent toward the work of Sanford Meisner; How is your Meisner training useful for this type of realistic play?

ANDY: Being that my interactions with my fellow actors are few, the Meisner training does not help as much as the Uta Hagen work I've studied at Rutgers. Most notably for this production, how to actively wait on stage, which I do a lot of.

Question: Seeing as you spend the entire play on stage, how do you keep yourself focused/connected/awake/not bored?

ANDY: The truth is I'm in the exact situation as the guard, and getting bored is hazard of the job. So if I get bored, well that's gravy. But that has yet to happen. The production is so alive and the acting is so captivating, the difficultly is in the not paying attention.

And I've worked out events for myself backstage, such as certain people leaving the building for the evening, seeing one of the janitors coming in for the night shift, a quick chat with the officer in charge of the evidence locker, borrowing his newspaper, realizing I didn't bring my umbrella today when it starts to pour outside.
And then there are the occasional sirens going off in the distance that grab my attention, wondering about the impending baseball game, reading over my borrowed paper that David graciously let me have, and looking at the backstage wall (which has jokes, drawings, and messages strewn all over it from the carpenters and the crew)

Question: Can you tell us about some of your character crafting? What makes your take on the guard unique?

ANDY: Well he's pretty inept, isn't he? Jurors are constantly being threatened with physical violence, also nearly attacking one another, and one has, in fact snuck, a weapon into the jury room, and all of this happens right under his nose. So I decided he's new to the job, bumped up from being a traffic cop. He's got a wife and a new baby, which also influenced his move from being street officer, to a safer job. And much like the jurors, he doesn't want to be there either, he wants to be back home. It's hot and muggy, and the deliberation could last well into the night, and he's gonna have to stay. All he wants is a quick verdict and a cold beer, and he gets neither.

Question: What does an opportunity like this mean to you, at the beginning of your professional career?

ANDY: It's means an immense amount, so much so I probably won't be able to fully understand how great of an opportunity this has been until I'm looking back on it. It's all too easy to get an ego with some of the roles I've been able to work on in grad school, but even that's a very small pond compared to what's out there. And we all have to pay our dues and start over after we graduate, but George Street Playhouse, director David Saint, and Pat McCorkle have given me a head start.

Question: Ultimately, do you think the defendant is guilty of the crime?

ANDY: I, the actor, think he is innocent. The guard thinks is undoubtedly guilty. In fact in other versions of the script the guard even says, "He doesn't stand a chance." The only thing the guard can't figure out what is taking the jury so long to decide on a verdict.