With Sheldon Epps, author of My Own Directions
My guest today is Sheldon Epps whose new book is titled, My Own Directions — A Black Man’s Journey in the American Theatre.
There he shares the story of his long and successful career during which he has often been “the first”, “one of the few”, or even “the only” person of color to reach various levels of achievement in the world of theater.
At the center of the book are the two decades Epps served as "Artistic Director" of The Pasadena Playhouse, one of the oldest and most well-known regional theaters in America, and at the time Sheldon took that job, it was also one the whitest! How he met the many challenges of revitalizing that somewhat faded theater company and transforming both its audience and its artistic vision could not be more instructive at a time when theater companies nationwide are struggling with many of these same issues.
This is the first of three episode in which you will hear about Sheldon’s very prolific freelance directing career Off-Broadway and at theaters across the country, as well as the two hit musicals he created — Blues In the Night and Play On! — that took him to Broadway, London’s West End and around the world.
Today we will start at the beginning of his story with his childhood in Teaneck, NJ, the inspiration he received from the Broadway musicals of the 1960s and 70s, and the remarkable roles he played in high school. Then we follow his intense acting training at Carnegie Mellon University, his professional debut in multiple productions of Jaques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris, and the co-founding of his own Off-Broadway theater company, The Production Company, where Blues In The Night had its premiere.
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