PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Gatz and Blood Knot Actor Scott Shepherd

By Robert Simonson
10 Mar 2012

Scott Shepherd in Gatz
Photo by Joan Marcus

Maybe your locker combination from high school, and every other phone number you've ever had. As you perform it, do different passage strike you more strongly at different performances?
SS: In general, certain passages have a slow, pulsing life. They come into focus over the course of a few shows. And then for a while they won't become as prominent again, and I really don't know why. Then a passage further down the page will start to feel like the centerpiece of that scene. It has a bit of a life of its own that I'm not in control of. I do remember when we finished the show in New York the last time, and we thought this might be the last time we do this — at that point the show was almost ten years old; the first time we did it was in 2005 — there was a section at the end of chapter eight that was in danger of becoming too sentimental. It's all about this goodbye between Gatsby and Nick. I kept a tight rein on it.

When you do the show, do you basically sleep, eat and perform? There's not much room for anything else?
SS: Yeah. I try to do a little exercise before I get to the theatre. After the show, I'm not exhausted yet. I don't feel it until a half hour later, when I go out with the cast for a drink. Then the exhaustion hits.

Do Fitzgerald nuts ever wait for you after the show?
SS: I've been approached by a few professors. And we've been fortunate to have some of the descendants come. A couple of Fitzgerald's grandchildren have come. We usually know they're coming.

When this is all done, I guess you'll never feel the need to read this book again.
SS: I already don't need to read it! For me, it's not really a book to read anymore. I can't really compare it to other books. I can't regard it in the same way. But I do sometimes, when I read a contemporary writer of some kind, I recognize who is down a branch from Fitzgerald, more than, say, Joyce or Faulkner. I was just reading Jonathan Franzen and he really feels like he comes from the Fitzgerald stock.

Read senior correspondent Robert Simonson's earlier appreciation of the Fitzgerald classic as related to the 2010 engagement of Gatz at The Public Theater.