My Own Directions

A Black Man’s Journey in the American Theatre


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About the Book

Life in the theatre is often a rollercoaster ride, with all the excitement and occasional anguish that come with the highs and lows. The author’s journey in the American theatre has been amplified by his experience as a Black man who has frequently been “one of the few,” “the first” or even “the only.” His directing career has been full of rewards and opportunities as well as huge challenges and frustrations, along with the anger that has come from being “chased by race” for so many years. Much of the author’s experience comes from two decades artistic director of Pasadena Playhouse, one of the oldest and well-known theatres in America, and for a time early in his career, one of the whitest.
This is the story of how the author came into leadership at Pasadena Playhouse after a successful career directing on Broadway, in London and all over the world. It relates how the theatre was radically changed and reignited by his leadership, including his insistence on making diversity a priority onstage and off. This is the very personal story of a person who wanted his race to be recognized, but never used as a reason to be less than fully respected. In many ways, this memoir tells the story of what people of color in America must face repeatedly to make their lives matter.

About the Author(s)

Sheldon Epps has directed major productions on and off Broadway, in London and at many theatres across America. In addition, he has had an active television career helming some of the classic shows of recent years. He was the artistic director of the renowned Pasadena playhouse for two decades, and currently serves as senior artistic advisor at historic Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Bibliographic Details

Sheldon Epps
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 196
Bibliographic Info: 23 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8858-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4613-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Prologue: Chased by Race 1
Act I, Scene One—Making My Playhouse Great 7
Act II, Scene One—Making My Way to the Stage 18
Act II, Scene Two—From Coast to Coast 25
Act II, Scene Three—Magic Time 29
Act II, Scene Four—Getting Stage Struck 37
Act III, Scene One—School Daze 46
Act III, Scene Two—The Real World 51
Act IV, Scene One—Off and On Broadway 59
Act IV, Scene Two—Off and On the West End 75
Act V, Scene One—Movin’ On, Movin’ Up 80
Act V, Scene Two—Back to Broadway 92
Act VI, Scene One—Setting My House on Fire 102
Act VI, Scene Two—Hitmaker 127
Act VI, Scene Three—A Dark Chapter 138
Act VII, Scene One—Coming Out of the Dark 151
Act VII, Scene Two—Making an Exit (A Long One!) 154
Epilogue: Back on the Road(s) Again 175
Index 185

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Epp’s book is a lovely, very readable timeline of his significant achievements as a director who happens to have the good fortune to be a Black man…The book is really a beautiful success story of a man who pursued his dream, brought others along with him, and refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. It is surely an inspirational, honest history, and beyond a book about the obstacles of race, speaks to the triumph of taking a leap of faith, and giving 100 percent of yourself to your dream.”—San Diego Jewish World

• “Epp’s memoir is a textured, personal dive into his career…dynamic and confident”—The Daily Californian