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Posted on: Friday, October 25, 2002

Ex-NFL player tackles acting in 'Lysistrata'

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

From left Cindy Beth Davis, Kristy Miller, Amy Joy Matsen and Stephanie Kong star in "Lysistrata," a modern rendering of the Greek play about women taking charge in a world where men usually call the shots. Matsen plays the title character.

Photos by Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

'Lysistrata'

A comedy by Aristophanes, translated by Kenneth McLeish, produced by Kennedy Theatre

8 p.m. today and tomorrow; repeats 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 3

Kennedy Theatre

$12 general; $10 seniors, military and UH staff; $8 students; $3 UH-Manoa students

956-7655

Al Noga is putting his football savvy and experience to the test as he makes his stage debut tonight in "Lysistrata," the updated Greek classic, at Kennedy Theatre.

"I play a military extra, a face in the crowd," said Noga, the former University of Hawai'i Warrior and ex-NFL and Arena Football defensive end. "It's a little part, but like football, you have to start somewhere. Someday, I want to have a leading role. Right now, it's sort of like first-and-25 to go — I have a way to go to make that goal. I'm a wannabe, I'm trying to be, and I will be — someday."

At 34 and a music major, Noga has returned to the Manoa campus, intent on carving out a degree and an education that would figure in an "off season" career he could maintain while coaching football.

"I did several parts in 'Jake and the Fatman' several years ago," he said when the acting bug bit. "When I was playing in the NFL (for the Minnesota Vikings), one of the things I really wanted to do, but had no time, was to become involved in the movie business. One of my brothers, Peter, works in the industry, so he's with the Teamsters union on that 'Helldorado' movie, and I want to be involved, too."

Noga said he's been a longtime fan, from afar, of director Glenn Cannon, who is shaping the modernized "Lysistrata," tackling issues of sex, politics and war, with contemporary elements and costumes. "I tried to take his course before, when I was a senior in school, but it was full; I didn't want to miss out, so this semester, I was able to sign up for a course," said Noga.

That led to his involvement in "Lysistrata," somewhat of a ribald take on the timeless Greek story about Athenian women finding a way to take charge in a world where men customarily call the shots.

Director Cannon said Noga fit into the theatrical hierarchy nicely — after a sluggish start.

"As far as the play's concerned, he has an ensemble role — but he's doing as well as a beginner would," said Cannon. "My only annoyance, initially, was that he would be late for rehearsals. Tempered by the football experience, I suppose it was not an easy transition, to try something new. But I'm using his size and his strength to set up a moment or two — not to make fun of him, but to give him a few instances" of glory.

Noga hopes show biz will find a place in his future.

"I think this experience (in music, drama and theater) will eventually help me with a career in coaching," said Noga. "A good player can turn around and teach kids a few things."

He's mildly amazed at the fun he's having while going through the rehearsal process.

"Just like football," he said.

"I'm one of the dancers, and I have a lot to learn — with no experience, no background in theater. So when the choreographer tells me to be here or there, I move," he said, likening dance to a football maneuver.

"Everything is timing in football, and practice. It's the same in theater; you have to rehearse, you have to remember where you have to be, or it's not going to work.

Acting requires specific facial expressions — "sad, mad, whatever," he said. "I can do mad well — mad's no problem, because in football, you gotta be ferocious."

Al Noga, right, a former UH and NFL football player, appears in the UH staging of "Lysistrata." Noga has returned to school at UH and hopes to develop an acting career now that his football career is over.
With his football body (6-foot-1, around 270 pounds), Noga is one of the heftier figures on stage. "Size-wise, I may be the biggest," he said.

"I've been struggling with learning my lines, and I'm really not ready for a bigger role, because I have to tend to all the little things first. I'm still new at the game. Sometimes I feel like I've had too many penalties, for unnecessary roughness for forgetting a line. But spending four to five hours every day for the last few months, I now have some kind of idea of where I need to be, where I have to go."

Noga has realized that acting, like football, is a lot of practice and process. "There are no shortcuts when you're starting out," he said. "You have to take the long road first."

Noga said he admires the Hollywood success of The Rock, Dwayne Johnson. "Here's a guy who made it in one profession (wrestling) and made the jump into another (acting). He's doing a lot for the people of Hawai'i; to me, he's like 'Ben Hur,' Charlton Heston, getting paid $10 million to make this movie."

So yes, the fortunes of a Hollywood-linked career are an enticement.

"In football, I was making $24,000 a week," he said. "But it's all about paying your dues first. You start small — then build."

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