Two of Shakespeare’s most famous characters are featured in Austin Pendleton’s adaptation of Richard III in Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III," which will debut at the 124 Bank Street theater in NYC beginning August 1st. The director is Austin Pendleton, who will also star in the play, as Henry VI opposite Matt de Rogatis as Richard III. Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III," runs until August 19 and tickets are priced at $25.

By combining the two classic texts, Henry VI Part 3 & Richard III, this exciting production explains the events that lead Richard III to become one of Shakespeare’s most tyrannical villains.

Actor and producer Matt de Rogatis recently discussed this play and more via an exclusive interview on July 17, 2018.

Plays, roles, and history

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in acting and when did you really start to study Shakespeare?

Matt de Rogatis (MD): I remember when I was a kid there was a movie I watched on HBO one afternoon called "Like Father, Like Son" with Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron. It was really exciting and looked like so much fun. All of a sudden, an alarm went off inside my head, telling me that this was what I need to be doing. That was the moment. As for studying Shakespeare, I really didn't get truly invested in it until about two years ago when I played “Hamlet.” I wasn’t a fan in High School and college and found the language so alien.

But for a role like “Hamlet,” you MUST really study Shakespeare. I’d performed some Shakespeare roles prior to Hamlet but, for sure, it was playing that character that really made me take a HARD look at the language, and I have appreciated it so much more since. I almost prefer it to contemporary plays and characters now.

MM: How and why did you get into producing?

MD: I must give credit to RJ Lamb for teaching me so much, not just about acting but also producing as well. When I started acting in Community Theater in Freehold, New Jersey, he was instrumental in helping me grow as an actor. In addition to directing me in productions, he also was the main producer. When I moved to New York City, I saw how difficult it was to break through the glass ceiling and stopped acting from 2010-2014.

But then I got a phone call from a friend in the summer of 2014 about doing a show together. In November of 2014, I produced the play “Red,” about Mark Rothko, at the Jim Kempner Fine Art Gallery. Ironically RJ Lamb directed that production in which I co-starred with Jim Kempner. It went very well, and after that, I just decided that producing my own projects was the way to go to the next stage of my career. And I've been doing that ever since, working with not-for-profit groups and some other great producers, raising money to make each production bigger than the next. I look at it like I'm running my own business. Therefore, I have my hand in all aspects of the productions, and it's paid off huge.

I've made so many more contacts and connections, doing things my way, controlling my own destiny. I'm really pleased with the projects I’ve worked on, largely with the help of RJ Lamb. Together we've produced “Hamlet,” a premiere at 59E59, put shows on equity contracts and now “Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III” is next up. Our director is the legendary Austin Pendleton. It's exciting.

MM: Richard III was a real person; so how much research into history did you do before tackling this role?

MD: A ton. To me, the most interesting part of acting is the educational aspect. I have fully immersed myself in all the roles I’ve played and learned so much about history, music, culture and human behavior.

For Richard, I feel like I'm somewhat of an expert now. I've read four books about him. I’ve watched countless documentaries just looking for anything I can use to make the character come to life on the stage. I've known that this production was happening since November of 2017 and really, every day since then, I have been working on the character and educating myself on Richard III.

MM: What most interested you or surprised you about the real Richard III and how do your portrayal compare and contrast?

MD: Well one thing I found interesting in my research was that there is a large group of people called Ricardians. They are staunch advocates of Richard III who believe he was wronged by the Tudor dynasty.

I can’t say that I believe the Ricardians. I've done enough research and feel pretty confident that, while no one is inherently evil, Richard was closer to what Shakespeare makes of him rather than what the Ricardians believe. But who can say for sure? Shakespeare's Richard III is an evil, hunchbacked sociopath and my job is to try and portray him as convincingly as possible. Early in rehearsals, our director Austin Pendleton said to us, "pretend these people are all fictional characters." There's a lot of dramatic licensing in the play taken by Shakespeare, and I'm trying to find a balance in my interpretation between real and imagined.

MM: How did you prepare for the role and what were the biggest challenges of it?

MD: Well I'm still preparing and will likely continue to prepare and tweak up until the last performance. It was a great challenge to memorize all the lines especially since we are using two scripts, Henry VI 3 and Richard III. Also, just putting the character together. I can’t say any one aspect was more challenging than the other. The whole undertaking of playing Richard III is a great challenge for any actor.

MM: Which of your characters and/or plays have been favorites to work on and why?

MD: “Lone Star” by James McLure is my favorite production that I've ever worked on. The role of Roy from that same play is my favorite character I've ever played. I’m proud of all my roles, but Roy is such a great character.

He's almost like a Stanley Kowalski and, in my opinion, he’s better developed. Roy suffers from PTSD from the Vietnam War in Maynard, Texas 1972. There's a lot to dive in and work on in the show, and there's lots of humor in it too. I've worked on the production twice, once in 2010 and the other in 2017. In both productions, my good friend Chris Loupos played the role of Ray, Roy’s brother. Chris is not really an actor. However, we have great chemistry, and it was pretty cool and special to do the show with him, especially in 2017 when we produced it on contract and received universally positive reviews. Our final show was October 27th. We opened on April 20th. It was a great run, and something tells me there's another run still.

Future opportunities, characters, and goals

MM: What sorts of characters do you hope to have the opportunity to play in the future?

MD: I want to continue to play characters that will stretch me and challenge me as an actor. There are a few left on my bucket list, and I hope to get a chance to play some of them before I get too old! I'd really like to do original work.

MM: What new theatrical projects are you working on at the moment and what most excites you about these endeavors?

MD: I'm working on an adaptation of Franz Kafka's novella “Metamorphosis” and hope to be able to produce that at some point. I'm also working on producing a major Tennessee Williams play Off-Broadway in the Fall of 2019.

I'm really excited about that too.

MM: What are your primary goals for your future as a theatrical actor and producer is there anything more that you would like to talk about?

MD: First and foremost, my goal is to continue to stretch and challenge myself as an actor. I want to continue to grow and be the best actor I can be. As I develop as a producer, I am able to make my productions more high-profile and put myself on a bigger stage with each passing show. Right now, it's “Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III” and I really encourage people to come to see it. It's an original script, cut from Shakespeare's works - our director Austin Pendleton is a Tony nominee and theater luminary. He also plays Henry VI in the show. We've got a great cast and a killer website that has all the information you need about our production. Check it out at “Prove A Villian. com”