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Edward Gero ’76

Award-winning actor, associate professor and head of performance at George Mason University is still loving the process of learning a complicated craft, and still effectively shows that in his performances and lectures.

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Edward Gero as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in The Originalist at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater March 6-April 26, 2015. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

A Man of Characters

As he took the stage as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on opening night of the off-Broadway performance of The Originalist in July, Edward Gero was empowered to know that Jerome Rockwood, his old acting professor from Montclair State University was in the audience.

“That he was there, at age 91, meant a lot to me,” Gero says. “He had such a major impact on the development of my career.”

The role of Justice Scalia, which was written for Gero, offered his first return to the New York stage in 35 years.

Gero, who describes himself a loner prone to long moments of reflection, found acceptance with acting while attending high school in Madison, New Jersey.

“Acting was liberating for me,” he says. “Once I was given the opportunity to participate in a play, all of my inner thoughts and feelings were released. I was encouraged to share all of myself.”

As it turned out, Gero’s high school drama teachers were Montclair State alumni, so he decided to learn more about the school and went to see a University production of Peter Weiss’ 1963 play within a play, Marat/Sade directed by Rockwood.

“It blew my mind,” Gero recalls. “That was the exciting theater I wanted to do. There was nowhere else to look. I applied early decision and never looked back.”

Gero graduated in 1976 with a degree in speech and theater and lived and worked in New York until 1983, when he moved to Washington, D.C., for a role with what is today the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Over the last three decades, the four-time Helen Hayes Award-winner with 16 nominations, whose roles have included characters such as Richard Nixon and Ebenezer Scrooge, has maintained a busy schedule of acting and teaching, working as an associate professor and head of performance at George Mason University.

For Gero, Montclair State was a place to develop a strong work ethic and the drive to get involved.

“I learned to reach beyond my comfort zone to grow as an artist,” he says.

Gero says he can still hear Rockwood’s voice in the back of his mind, challenging him to focus on the heart of the action.

“He made you really want to work on it and focus on the critical analysis of the role,” he says.

Gero has returned to Montclair State to conduct student workshops, an experience he says helps him deepen his own understanding of the fundamentals.

“By working with students, I strive to honor the ideas and the challenges that inspired me through my training and my experience, and encourage students to grapple with them and find their own solutions,” he says. “We learn from each other as we engage these questions again and again. It’s about the process, not the result.”

Over the years, Gero has also had opportunities to mentor Montclair State students through the Shakespeare company that helped him establish a foothold in the region.

“I had great mentors from Montclair and the way I honor them is by sharing my experience with students.”

–Suzanne Marta

This article first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Montclair magazine.”