Lively-Arts Reviewer Opens Own Theatre

FEATURE by Willard Manus

Richmond Shepard, who reviews New York theatre for LIVELY-ARTS.COM, has opened his own NYC theatre. Formerly called the Vineyard Theatre (on East 26th St), the venue had been shuttered for several years when Shepard discovered it. "I looked in the window and saw life on that dark and dusty stage. It was instantly decided...I would re-open its doors!"

Shepard is no stranger to theatre management. When he was based in Los Angeles, he transformed a large industrial building on Santa Monica Blvd. (in Hollywood) into a five-theatre cultural center that started L.A.'s Theatre Row.

"I felt compelled to do it," Shepard recalled. "People thought I was a bit off--the neighborhood had no theatrical activity at all, so to build it into a thriving theatre scene was very rewarding."

Shepard has enjoyed a long career as an actor, director and writer filled with colorful experiences such as playing a transvestite on Kojak, a mime on The Jeffersons, and an appearance on Ally McBeal for which his daughter, soul singer Vonda Shepard, composed the music and appeared weekly.

Since taking over the Vineyard earlier in 2006, Shepard has been busy refurbishing the space, now called the Richmond Shepard Theatre. "A theatre can be so much more than a theatre," he said. "It's important for people in the neighborhood to walk by and see the doors open and know there's something creative and magical happening inside--a performance, a workshop, an art exhibit."

Plans for the new venue include dramatic theatre in prime time; improvisational comedy; workshops in acting and improv; and the formation of a theatre company that will give actors a space to workshop, practice, and be seen. Shepard, who has coached Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin in movement, will be sharing his expertise as America's foremost mime in a series of workshops.

Also in the offing are a puppetry school and an after-school program intended to give children ages 5 to 12 training in the dramatic arts.

"A theatre is an exciting place; a place to explore and share, and I wish for the neighborhood to share in the experience and to add to its energy," Shepard concluded.