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Old 11-21-2009, 12:06 PM   #1
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Biggrin New Gregory Sierra (El Puerco) Interview: An old pro returns to stage

November 16, 2009 4:22 PM
An old pro returns to stage

LAGUNA WOODS- Laguna Woods Village resident and former "Barney Miller" television actor Gregory Sierra makes a return to the stage in the Old Pros' production of "See How They Run" on Nov. 20.

The New York native has an acting background in Shakespeare, although he is most widely known for his role as Det. Sgt. Chano Amenguale on "Barney Miller," the 1970s cop comedy series. Sierra, who plays the policeman in the British farce, joins director and actor John Perak and several others for a play of mischief, mayhem and mistaken identities.

"First play I've done in over 40 years," said Sierra.

The play written by Philip King, also starring Sheila Bialka, Carol Shallin, Al Bravin, David Dearing, Mary Lee Lindquist, Ben Holtman and Odette Derryberry, is very active since many members of the cast run and jump around on stage.

"I think I've lost 10 to 15 pounds. It's great," Sierra said.

"It's easier to do when you are 25 rather than 65," director Perak said of all the action. But he said the cast has managed to make it funny regardless.

Sierra grew up in New York City, as a Puerto Rican boy in a primarily Irish neighborhood, and began his acting career a little bit by accident. He said he was waiting for a Doo-wop album he had done with a group to come out, and a friend asked him to go with him to an acting class. He said the teacher asked them to do some improvisation together, and soon the class was cheering.

"I thought really?" Sierra said of his reaction, and so his career in acting began.

He came to Los Angeles in 1969 with his then wife, and began pursuing television and film roles. It was during this period he landed several parts, many he said with no lines, before being cast as Chano Amenguale on "Barney Miller" and Julio Fuentes on "Sanford and Son."

"The things that I have been able to do give me a great deal of pleasure," he said of his career thus far.

Sierra performed with The National Shakespeare Company and in the New York Shakespeare Festival. He said he played Macbeth and Romeo and would have loved to have played Richard III.

"I would have been happy if I continued to do that for the rest of my life" he said of Shakespeare. "You name it, I would have loved to do it."

He said something unique to Shakespearean actors is the ability to get straight to the reality of a situation in a play and express it beyond the words themselves. Although, he said for any person the words, such as in Macbeth, are powerful.

"The music of it," Sierra said. "Whoa man that is heavy stuff. Whether you live on the street or not, it's just incredible. It's language that's just beyond beautiful."

He agreed to play the part of the Bobby he said because he wanted a smaller role (the Bobby only appears in Act 3) when delving back into the acting waters. Although Sierra was originally a Spanish speaker when he was young, his Shakespeare skills helped to transform him into a Bobby with a cockney accent. He said he had never heard of "See How They Run," so he got some DVDs of British shows to help his street accent evolve.

"A lot of it is in the script itself," he said of the slang, such as saying 'wot' instead of 'what.'"

Before the production

Sierra said he basically has just hung out in the community for the past four years. He was asked to speak at an Old Pros club meeting, where he spoke about his acting background, from there he was approached to do the play. But since rehearsals started in October, he said he has really enjoyed the process.

"Any role is demanding if you put yourself through a process," he said. "Because you expect something of yourself."

Perak said Sierra has been a charm to work with throughout the process and his background definitely lends itself to this type of comedic role.

"The fluidness of his movements," Perak said, is a defining characteristic of his acting. "And Shakespeare of course is full of comedy."

"It's just great," Sierra said of working with the cast and crew. "I'd forgotten what a family felt like."

"See How They Run" opens Friday, Nov. 20, at Clubhouse 3. For more information call 949-951-5881 or visit Reserved seats are $10 and $15.
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