Sheldon Epps came to the Pasadena Playhouse in 1997. He had no idea that he would spend 20 years as the artistic director.
In his role, Epps determined and supervised the artistic direction of the Pasadena Playhouse Theatre. He helped determine which way the theater would go artistically from the kind of material that the theater pursued and who was going to be involved in the production of the plays.
He did this by choosing what plays and musicals would end up on the stage. He also helped to choose the directors and then he helped the directors choose their designers, the cast and all the creative staff involved.
It allowed Epps to have quality control over different projects. He helped to give the Pasadena Playhouse a personality.
“Pasadena Playhouse is a community theater that serves as a resource for young people,” Epps said. “We work on getting young people to the theater as we expand on plays that we have chosen by putting a background of the play with a display in our front lobby.”
Danny Feldman is producing artistic director at the Pasadena Playhouse and Epps now serves as artistic director emeritus.
Epps says the theater company helps new artists.
“Hot House is a play program that was started 15 years ago,” Epps said. “We host a director’s lab with young directors from all over the country that are assigned to each play. We do whatever serves the playwright to get the play to next level.”
Epps is passionate, inquisitive, dedicated and proud of his work.
One of the things that Epps has loved about his job is that it constantly changes. He said that in many jobs, you go to the same place and do the same thing with the same people, year after year and people may come and go but it feels you are doing the same thing.
“You never feel like you are doing the same thing because the personality of the theater changes with each new production,” Epps said. “The artists change, the directors, the designers change, so some things are constant, but every time we have a new production it’s like having a new community here. I like the variety of it.”
Epps is in contact with hundreds of people with new opinions everyday. He loves the collaboration and working with all the artists.
In his new role as artistic director emeritus, Epps does not have contact in the same way as he did before. He no longer gives Pasadena Playhouse an artistic focus. He’s now project by project.
“I used to make choices on what I think the theater needs are or what the audience needs are as opposed to what I think my needs are,” Epps said. “I miss giving Pasadena Playhouse an artistic focus but it is time for someone else to have the opportunity.”
Epps’ legacy has been one of artistic diversity.
“Artistic diversity has been what I’ve tried to do at Pasadena Playhouse, Epps said. “We have represented all the communities of America in a good way with art both on stage and off. “
Epps explains what artistic diversity means.
“It would not be good if the diversity was only on the stage and not in the audience,” Epps said. “It would not be good if the diversity was only in the audience and not on the stage. I’m talking about styles of theater, types of theater, and ethnic and age diversity.”
Epps will not miss the economic pressure part of the job. He will not miss the administrative stuff such as budgets, raising money to support the work and working with the board to raise money.
“It would be a lot easier to be an artistic director if you had all the money in the world, but you never have all the money in the world,” Epps said. “Money is always a factor and you make decisions based on that. You have frustrations based on that. Such as things you want to do but can’t do because you don’t have the money for.”
He is passionate about good writing. He may even try this hand at teaching someplace.
He loves going to the theatre and walking around the different Pasadena neighborhoods and the canyons. He also loves listening to music and watching television and movies.
Epps favorite color is blue. He loves to eat Indian food for the spices.
The Pasadena Playhouse was an awesome experience for Epps. He first visited Pasadena Playhouse when he was 8 years old.
Epps was born and raised in Compton until he was 10 years old.
“I moved to New Jersey and started to see plays on Broadway,” Epps said. “It’s important for me to get young people to fall in love with the theater just as I did as a child.”
Epps has been back from the East Coast about 25 years now.
“If the entertainment world is something that you are interested in, you have to get training,” Epps said. “You have to study, go to the theater, read books and learn your craft. It is not magic but a craft. You have to put in the time and work for it.”
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