It’s a classic tale, the struggling actor bouncing from job to job, place to place, looking for that one part, that one role that will bring the top of the marquee, the bright lights, the Broadway fame. The actor: Nick Rogers. The play: William Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life.
“I was working at the Getty because my girlfriend was the catering manager, and I got promoted to be a supervisor, but it got overwhelming pretty quick,” Rogers says. “But getting cast in The Time of your Life lifted me up, and being around these people, the cast, is pretty wonderful.”
Rogers is nothing if not a Westside native. Born in Culver City, raised in Venice, and schooled in Santa Monica, Rogers grew up playing sports — baseball, basketball and soccer — what was “really, my true love,” he says. It took a chance visit to the Morgan-Wixson Theatre to see a friend’s performance for Rogers to get introduced to the stage.
“I went and saw my buddy John Webb, who’s a musician now, but used to act, at the Morgan-Wixson’s summer program. I don’t know if I had seen any live theater up until that point, so seeing people up on stage performing, it just captivated me,” Rogers says.
His first role, as the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors, was “maybe inappropriate for an 11-year-old but I didn’t understand it,” he says. “But not being trained but still getting up there, breaking through that fear was pretty great, just exhilarating.”
Although he kept up with sports, Rogers kept getting drawn to the theater. He realized early that he could sing and harmonize, which really opened doors as a male actor, he says.
For high school, Rogers decided against going to Santa Monica High School to play baseball, instead attending the Hamilton Academy of Music. After applying to several different colleges, he chose to attend Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“I majored in theater and there were a few teachers fresh out of NYU [New York University],” he says. “I lucked out, got in, and landed a couple of leads, big parts right off the bat but upperclassmen started hating me.”
That’s not to say there was no transition between his past roles and the leads he played, though.
“Having done four straight years of musical theater, doing The Seagull, Chekhov, is quite a leap,” Rogers says.
Moving into adulthood
Transplanting a SoCal native always has its challenges. Transplanting one across the country to a small college in Pennsylvania, though, is a jump that doesn’t always work out.
“For many reasons I left there after three semesters. I probably wasn’t mature enough to be 3,000 miles away from home, but I came home because of me.”
Rogers joined the workforce upon returning to Venice, starting odd jobs through a temp agency, from the Barneys NY warehouse sale at the Santa Monica Airport to the mailroom at Deutsche Inc., E! Entertainment, Trader Joe’s and The Getty.
Throughout, Rogers was auditioning for non-union roles and acting in student films. He performed in several plays at Theater 40, where “basically, I lucked out (in my roles) but wasn’t getting paid and I was jumping from job to job,” he says.
He recently connected with the Pacific Resident Theatre, where he had acted in a play there at 14. What was originally supposed to be a three-week workshop of William Saroyan’s play, The Time of Your Life, ended up with a full ten-week slot at the Venice theater, which runs through Sunday, June 1st.
After quitting his post at The Getty, Rogers found an opportunity to work for the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles as a dinosaur, part of a feature performance by the Australian theater company, Erth.
“A woman in Time of your Life had a friend asking for dancers for a new exhibit at the museum. I went to audition,” he says. “I got a callback and got to actually get into the costumes, walk through the museum and scare the children.”
Although his role as a Tyrannosaurus rex has not yet merited performances of note, the Pacific Resident’s run of The Time of Your Life has received acclaim, and Rogers does not take that for granted.
“I’m proud to be part of a diverse and rich company, one of the best in the city,” he says.
His role as Harry, the “unfunny comedian coming into a bar trying to change the world,” has been noted in several reviews. Having been called a “young Kirk Douglas” doesn’t hurt, either.
“What’s so wonderful about this cast and what the production really needs is for the life to continue on stage, everybody on the stage, waiting for the moment,” Rogers says. “It’s just a bar and there’s life going on, and it’s pretty real, you lose yourself in it.”
The Time of Your Life is running through June 1st at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice. Admission is $20 to $25. Information, (310) 822-8392.
“The great thing about this play is that it’s everything, you laugh, cry, and it ranges the gamut of emotions, but only takes place over a 24-hour period,” Rogers says.
“But it’s so very real, you see the opportunity for an arc in every character, and they all end up in a different place from where they began.”