An Interview With... Sandro Scenga
STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theater?
My first experience was in the 4th grade in a 1950's-themed variety show at  my grade school. I played Milton Berle in full drag (I even got hit in the face with 'MAKEUP!!'). I also played Donald Duck in the sane show because at the time I could do the voice.

What hooked you? Was it your first school play-movie-first time seeing a Broadway Show?  What inspired you to be where you are today?
I performed in a couple of plays in high school ('Oliver' and 'The Crucible'), and I really got a kick out of being in front of an audience. I really began to make it a regular thing once I started doing plays in college for the Theatre Guild at NY Institute of Technology, my alma mater. I think my primary inspiration to act came from watching movies of my acting hero, Robert DeNiro.

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
First play I ever saw on Broadway was 'Les Miserables' (it's still my favorite). The first (non-variety) show I performed in was 'Oliver' in 9th grade.

Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
I don't have any formal training.

I saw the flyer for 'Oliver' auditions in high school and it sounded like fun, so I just went down and gave it a shot. I got into it as a fun outlet where I could hang out with my friends (,?OK, and meet pretty girls too). Personal enjoyment is still a major reason I do it. It's also a great outlet for my fiancee, Geri Lynn, and I to do shows together whenever we can.

GETTING IN

What was your first audition?
My first audition in Long Island Theater was for 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' for Cultural Arts Playhouse..

How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
Lately, my criteria for doing a show is solely whether it's a play my future wife and I can participate in together, in any capacity (I know, I'm a big, corny mush), and if I can commit to it time-wise. It's something we both love doing together. Usually if it looks like a fun play to do or it's something with an interesting plot or subject matter, I'll also consider it. I'd like to do more straight plays. Don't get me wrong, musicals are great fun, but I'd like to delve into some more straight-forward comedy or drama.

Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
As long as I'm made aware of it beforehand, I'm fine with it.

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast?
The parts I've been cast in the most are the ones where I've played a king or ruler of some kind , from Charlemagne in 'Pippin', The Pharaoh in 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' to the Father in 'Children of Eden'. I've also been cast as the brawny, macho, sometimes dim-witted type (the murder mysteries I've done is where I'm primarily cast in these roles). I've been told numerous times I was cast in roles because of my voice (I'm a bass-baritone, and often sing the lower parts in most ensembles. Volume isn't a problem with me either). So I guess I'm your guy if you're looking for a big?mouthed, empty-headed arrogant jerk with a messianic complex.

At times I feel typecast, but it honestly doesn't bother me. If I'm cast in the same type of role, my approach is 'I guess I'm doing something right'.

Looking back on the roles you've been cast in, do you think there's a certain kind of role you get cast in repeatedly?  When directors look at a certain role, what do you think they see as a "Sandro Scenga" type?
I've probably been used most when the part requires someone who can sing bass or baritone, which I love, especially any song with lots of harmonies in it. Or roles that require speaking with lots of low end volume and resonance. Anything comedic I'm usually the straight guy. I think dramatically, I'm seen more as the villain than the good guy. I've also
been told I'm a Brendan Fraser-type (which I don't see cause he's much better looking than I am).


CHARACTERIZATION

What is your approach to developing your character?
I just try and absorb myself in a character or scene as much as I can, and hope to make it as realistic as possible.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
I've enjoyed every show I've ever been in tremendously, but I would say playing Alan MacNalley in 'Baby' is the one I really hold most dear. The topic of unexpected parenthood is a very sobering one and the show allows for that kind of unflinching emotion to resonate throughout. The songs are great, and it also allowed me to play along side my real life future wife, who's a tremendous talent.

What do you think were your best roles?  your worst?
I think was most happy with 'Baby'. I got very positive and encouraging feedback from people who saw it. The worst was probably 'A Winters Tale'. I have sort of a Shakespeare-phobia because learning his words is a real challenge for me, and don't think I did my part (Florizel) much justice. I got through it OK, but I definitely feel I could have done a much better job with the part.

What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you think you met the challenge?
I think 'Baby' stretched me the most from a character standpoint, as I played a middle-aged father named Alan MacNalley who, along with his wife Arlene, is confronted with yet another child, unexpectedly. It evokes very different reactions from both husband and wife. Alan is thrilled (relieved), and Arlene is not happy. There are some very poignant scenes
throughout the play where Alan is forced to confront his fear of intimacy with his wife now that their other kids are grown and out of the house, and Arlene's fear of being seen as solely a mother in her husband's eyes. Getting to act in some of those scenes was a real thrill.

The aforementioned feedback I received from the audiences who came to see it was immensely gratifying, so I guess I pulled it off OK.

What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
I'm never completely happy with any of the shows I've done. There has been and always will be something I've could have done better.

What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
I'd love to play Frank N. Furter from 'Rocky Horror Picture Show. Among other things, it would be a total departure from what I usually play, and I think it would be an absolute blast to sing and dance in, as much as it is to watch.


MOTIVATION

How do you feel when you perform?
I've never had a problem with stagefright or pre-show jitters. I really have a good time while on stage. Holding an audience's attention while performing is a great feeling, almost powerful.

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
Personal enjoyment. It's the same thing that motivates me in other aspects of my life. If it's fun, I'll do it.


SHARING

What is your favorite theater story?
When I was doing 'Pippin'. A cast mate and good friend of mine (I won't mention names, Jerry) who was playing the title role had to say the line, 'Theo, this is a very sick duck', and, well,.? let's just say he got inadvertently creative with last two words in that line. I've never laughed harder in my life. Thankfully it was during a rehearsal and not the real thing.

Close second was when I was in 'South Pacific', when a cast member (again, no names mentioned, Fred) who was standing in the wings took it upon himself to moon the other side of the stage where I was standing during 'Bali Hai'. This was during an actual show, and again, uncontrollable laughing.

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable, crack up on stage?
I can't remember dropping a line. I came close to laughing during 'Working' when the cast had to freeze in various positions during the song 'It's an Art'. A cast member (again, no names, Donna) and I planned some very strategic poses to freeze in, and I came close to busting out a couple if times.

What was your worst theater experience?
Two instances, both when I did 'The Crucible'.
I was playing Proctor and, in the courtroom scene, had to slap the girl who played Abigail Williams. I took great care to make sure I wasn't hitting her hard, but one night I slipped and accidentally hit her with the palm of my hand, instead of the fingertips, which I was originally doing. I felt absolutely terrible about it apologized profusely to her the rest of the
night.

During rehearsals for the same play, there was a scene where I had to break free from the grasp of the guy playing Reverend Hale. I was a little too forceful in doing it one day and accidentally punched him in the mouth.


OTHERS

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
Absolutely. There are some incredibly talented people working throughout the Island. The caliber of the productions generated by many of the Long Island theatres and touring companies often make it a comparable alternative to seeing a show in NYC, and also get younger people interested it auditioning themselves.

Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with?
There are so many talented people I've loved working with. Geri Lynn Greco is by far the most rewarding person I've had the pleasure of working with. She has an absolutely beautiful singing voice which I've always admired, and is a very good actress. I love working with her, and I adore and respect her tremendously as a person.

Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
Two people come to mind.
Cindy Baker. I worked with her in 'Anything Goes'. She's a terrific singer and dancer, and does a great job of taking command of the stage and holding an audience's attention, and she was an absolute joy to work with.

Rob Jones. Tremendously talented, and has always been great fun to watch on stage.

The director I probably have the most respect for is Jon Grodeski. I've seen numerous productions of his and have been very impressed with each of them. He is someone I'd love to work with in the future.


LIFE ISSUES

How do you maintain your career and do theater?
It's not easy because I work two jobs, but I try and fit it in whenever I can.

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
I love being on stage, I get to work with some pretty incredible and fun people, and it gives me more time with Geri Lynn.

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
Very much so.

How has performing enriched your life?
In a way I couldn't possibly have imagined. I met my fiancee through theater, and that is the best gift I could ever have asked for, as well as some great people who've become good friends.


FUN

What brings you the greatest joy?
1)   Spending time with my loved ones, (family, fiancee, & good friends).
2)   Laughing.
3)   Chocolate

What really irks you?
Fast drivers who are in a rush to go nowhere, and freely cut other drivers off. It's stupid, reckless, puts people in danger and annoys me to no end.

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would...
Make sure my loved ones are taken care of financially, first and foremost.  Pursue radio full time (I'm currently a DJ on the weekends with WBAB). More acting. I study martial arts and would love to become an instructor. I'd also do lots of travelling.

Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
I'm neither, and that's fine with me. I want to be happy, and am very thankful that I am .

What's your favorite word?
Honest

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
WAAAAAAAAASSSSSUUUUUUUP!


FUTURE PLANS

Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be aware of?
I'm currently starring in 'Mayhem Manor' with the Other Vic II which runs through the end of the year. And I'll be appearing as an extra in the Kevin Smith movie 'Jersey Girl.'

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's desire?
Heart's desire might be a bit strong, but some roles I'd love to play are Frank N. Furter in 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'. Also Smudge in 'Forever Plaid'. I'd love to do a courtroom drama as well.