For all of his talk about change, Shepperd seems reluctant to toy with one time-tested gay theater formula: the presence of young, good-looking actors on stage, usually in various states of undress. "And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that," he says, smiling. "I can tell you honestly that I have gone to see plays simply based on a poster with a good-looking guy on it."
Shepperd concedes that such plays are safe moneymakers for the Celebration -- an important consideration since the company is perpetually "broke," he says. Still, he wants quality to supersede titillation: "Sometimes you get pitched a play where it's just seven guys naked on the stage the whole time. And I'm like, 'no.' There has to be substance behind it."
On most days, however, Shepperd deals with issues that are much more mundane. He manages an annual budget of about $150,000 -- which he recently cut by $20,000 as a result of a hike in the theater's rent. Shepperd is paid only a stipend, not a salary, and manages a small army of what he calls "professional volunteers."
In his short time as the head of the Celebration, Shepperd has made racial diversity a priority. Next season, the theater will produce plays by Edwin Sanchez and Chay Yew.