Episode 96: How To Transform An American Theatre

In This Episode

This is the second part of my conversation with director Sheldon Epps whose very engaging new book is titled: My Own Directions — A Black Man’s Journey in the American Theatre.

This week we follow Epps’ journey as it takes him from New York to California, first to the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego to his appointment as Artistic Director of the Pasadena Playhouse which makes him the first black person to lead a major theater company in Southern California, and one of the only three artists of color to hold that position nationwide. 

As you will hear, both this week and next, Epps’ two decades at the Pasadena Playhouse are packed with high drama, both on and off the stage, including artistic triumphs, financial disasters, and both subtle and overt racism. However, during his tenure the Playhouse is radically transformed and reinvigorated by his leadership. 

One of the highlights of the book and this episode is an unbelievable but absolutely true story involving Epps first visit to the Pasadena Playhouse and the legendary black star Ethel Waters!

I also enjoyed our discussion of the certain amount of arrogance that is needed to be an Artistic Director. As Sheldon once told a Playhouse Board Member, “If you ever have an Artistic Director who is not a bit arrogant — fire them!”

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