Jun 30, 2011

Shepperd's Hook

The first big piece I wrote for American Theatre after I started full-time here was an in-depth profile of L.A.'s Celebration Theatre and its artistic director Michael Shepperd. There was no budget to actually fly me back to the City of Angels, so I had to rely on my extensive memory of seeing shows there, on phone interviews, and on the eerie semi-immersive experience of Google street-view maps. I must say I was happy with the result, which I presume to say may be a definitive study of a major but too-little-honored gay theater whose work has spanned, embodied, and borne witness to the huge generational shift that has taken gay culture, very roughly speaking, from bathhouses to play spaces (one of Shepperd's initiatives at Celebration was to create programming for kids and families, as he himself is of the married-with-children cohort).

It's sad that Michael's leaving the top post there, but I'm glad to see that he's going out with a bang, or rather, with Bash'd, a truly unlikely and utterly winning concoction I raved about for the Voice and which recently crossed my mind, as it deals with the violent backlash against the prospect of legal gay marriage in Canada. With great changes come great upheavals. Here's hoping that the changing of the guard at the Celebration (Shepperd's successor is John Michael Beck) is not cause for too wrenching an upheaval. Even in a supposedly post-gay world, we need the Celebration.

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