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  • Writer's pictureThe Blue and White Magazine

Casey Rogerson

By Victor Omojola

Illustration by Jorja Garcia

Casey Rogerson, CC ’24, doesn’t really work alone. This is not to say that the Bucks County-bred, Lee Bollinger-tethered, self-proclaimed (though perhaps reluctantly admitted) theater kid is not capable of creating art by himself. However, for Casey, the best part of acting, writing, and directing is getting to collaborate with others. A creative environment in which “everybody’s doing something different” is where he feels “most alive.”

Casey is a major fixture of the acting scene on campus. He has starred in numerous student plays, is a member of Third Wheel Improv, and is—perhaps most famously—a two-time Varsity Show cast member. Last year in the 129th production of the show, Casey played Wilder, a fictional Columbia freshman; the year before that, he embodied Prezbo himself, ridiculous hair and all. In the weeks leading up to his taking on the latter role, Casey explained that it was “really hard for me to shake him after rehearsal.”

That quip was made roughly two years ago, during a short interview for the cast bio that I wrote for the show’s program. It was also a time when Casey and I lived mere feet away from each other. In our more recent chat, Casey stressed the sentiment (which I share) that living together was an early highlight of our college careers. Placed randomly into a Carlton suite as a consequence of our dismal lottery numbers, Casey and I (and the 14 other students in the suite) somehow still seemed to have lucked out: Despite not knowing one another upon entry, Carlton 6A became extremely close. 

There was rarely a night the lounge wasn’t hosting an Oscars watch party (Casey’s initiative), a craft-making night, or just having casual conversation. Our majors were as disparate as electrical engineering and art history; our extracurriculars ranged from theater to race car building; our hometowns were as distant as Portland, Oregon and Kingston, Jamaica; and yet, somehow, as Casey and I agreed, “we all liked each other.” For Casey, the suite “was home and is home in some ways. Whenever I see anybody in that suite … there’s something so special that we share. And I think that having that foundation has made my time here so much better.” (He wasn’t exaggerating by the way: About twenty minutes into our interview, Dan, who lived in one of the rooms between Casey and me, passed by. The three of us chatted briefly and made plans to catch up before the interview resumed).) 

The sense of community that Casey speaks of—and played a large part in cultivating in Carlton– is present in most of his Columbia endeavors. He speaks fondly of the theater community, for example: “It’s like a giant extended family and then there’s like mini families within it,” he said. “Varsity has kind of become my mini family.”

Indeed, it is hard to overstate just how much of Casey’s time at Columbia has been dedicated to creating the yearly event that is the Varsity Show. As a senior this year, he finds himself as its co-writer for the first time, alongside Julian Gerber, CC ’24. After he and Gerber created an outline for the script, the pair and the rest of V130’s creative team embarked on a retreat in the Poconos where everybody helped “fill it out.” When Casey and Gerber returned, they started writing. Despite my best efforts, Casey was secretive about the contents of this year’s show. Without disclosing any plot details, he said that the goal is for V130 to be a “celebration” of sorts, three years on from the pandemic during which “the tradition could have died” but didn’t.

Along with creative writing, Casey majors in film and media studies. In Carlton, we often bonded over our mutual love for the movies as well as our mutual curiosity, for lack of a better word, regarding the film major at Columbia. I made sure to probe him once more on the well-documented academic orientation of Columbia’s undergraduate film program. “I’ve learned a ton from the film program here, but I have not learned how to operate a camera,” Casey half-joked. For someone like himself, who is just as interested in making movies as he is in theorizing about them, proactivity is key. Casey has learned to make connections with those who are better versed in certain areas of production. “Just stay near them,” he told me.

Casey did just this when it came time to make his first short film, Terroir, this past fall. In addition to Columbia students, he enlisted the help of gaffers from NYU and a director of photography that he used to intern for. The short, currently in post-production, follows a group of friends on a haunted wine tasting tour. It’s an homage to the 90s slasher, which Casey claims was rivaled only by musical theater as his favorite genre growing up. “I feel like in elementary school you were only cool if you had seen scary movies,” he told me, chuckling.

Some of Terroir’s cast and crew are also members of Third Wheel improv. After getting cut from the group following an initial audition during his sophomore year, Casey tried out again and “by some miracle” got accepted into the famously eccentric troupe. He, again, emphasized the comradery he has gained through his time with the improv collective. “Like the Carlton community or like the Varsity community, having Third Wheel as a sort of anchor for me has been huge.” 

I find writing about creatives quite difficult, largely because I question how much of my own perspective to bring into the piece. On the one hand, I greatly desire for any profile to prioritize encapsulating the essence of whom I am profiling. On the other, however, a great artist often pulls you into their world in ways that are hard to simply disregard. When I’ve written such profiles for this magazine in the past, I’ve debated the issue internally before ultimately finding it impossible not to insert myself. 

For Casey, no such debate was necessary. Too much about the man as an artist and as a person begs you to engage. Our hour or so spent together in preparation for this piece re-illuminated this fact about him, reminding me of our Carlton days. 

Nowadays, Casey and I don’t share a suite, but we do live just a floor apart in East Campus. A couple of weeks ago, we walked together from our dorm to the Joe Coffee in Dodge, asking each other questions and catching up before I began to conduct my structured interview. Even as the official inquisition commenced (and after it concluded), Casey continued to bounce questions back at me. His face lit up as he recalled our suite in Carlton and expressed how much he hopes to all reconvene soon. He spoke at length about how grateful he is for the communities he has been welcomed into at Columbia: Varsity Show, Third Wheel, Carlton. As we spoke, however, I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that it is he who is the common denominator among all of these welcoming spaces. As much of a mark as Casey’s creative chops have made on the Columbia theater scene and its adjacent communities, I get the feeling that the ultimate mark he has made in Morningside Heights has more to do with his ability to make a space feel warm. That, and the Bollinger wig.


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