CUE & A: Gatz and The Village Bike Star Scott Shepherd on "Dance Moms," His Browser History and Remaining Present Onstage

Stage veteran Scott Shepherd, who stars opposite Greta Gerwig in MCC Theater's The Village Bike, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Scott Shepherd
Scott Shepherd

Shepherd has performed with the Wooster Group for over 15 years, in Cry, Trojans!; Vieux Carré; Hamlet; Poor Theater; To You, The Birdie!; North Atlantic and others.

He has also worked extensively with Elevator Repair Service, most recently in Gatz, a marathon staging of the unabridged text of "The Great Gatsby" that played at The Public Theater, in London’s West End and in 21 other cities around the world.

The actor has won two Obie Awards, for Gatz and Poor Theater.

Full given name:

Sherrill Wayne Shepherd Jr. But I was always called Scott. This was an undocumented nickname until I legally annexed it to stop it causing me grief boarding airplanes and depositing checks. So now the official name is Scott Sherrill Wayne Shepherd Jr., which problematizes the meaning of "Jr.," but that's life.

Where you were born/where you were raised: Born in Raleigh, NC. Age 1-8, Charleston, SC. Age 9-18, Marietta, GA.
Zodiac Sign: Not a believer. Gemini. Earth Monkey.
What your parents did/do for a living:

Dad was a government-employed civil engineer who considered several escapes including architecture, sculpture and car salesmanship before making his move into real estate, just in time to be vulnerable when the crash came in 2008. Hit hard by that but now doing well and enjoying his independence in St Louis. Mom was home with us and somewhere along the way became an expert in health food. She worked in two or three stores of that description where she amazed me with her encyclopedic knowledge of all existing vitamin products and the complaints for which they should be recommended.

Siblings: One brother, 4.5 years younger. Devoted party and lake activity enthusiast.
Special skills: Slouching, avoiding intimacy, computer programming, foreign languages. And there's a hat-flipping trick I can do where it goes over the wrist in a surprising way and then presto! it's back in the hand again. I learned it with a frisbee. Mostly I do it with frisbees.
Something you're REALLY bad at: Forgetting humiliations.
First Broadway show you ever saw: Tyne Daly in Gypsy. My girlfriend took me. We were on a break from college. It was my second time ever in New York. She had grown up here. We bought tickets at TKTS in the World Trade Center, and I remember looking up at those buildings for the first time. I remember Tyne Daly being 1) great and 2) very far from where I was sitting. Like approximately one trade center tower away.
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? First run of Hamlet, 1601. Then Othello, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Twelfth Night. Oedipus Rex 429BC. The Wooster Group's Frank Dell's The Temptation of St. Anthony.
Current show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: Radiohole's Myth or Meth. An Octoroon at Soho Rep. But these are no longer current. Sorry.
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: I don't really know showtunes. But okay, "A Little Priest."
Some favorite musicals: It's not really my thing, the musicals. An old roommate of mine used to play the Angela Lansbury recording of Sweeney Todd a lot. I liked it. I liked The Book of Mormon. What about Einstein on the Beach? Can I put that one?
Some favorite modern plays: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, Aliens by Annie Baker, House by Richard Maxwell.
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: Groucho. Bette Davis. Ron Vawter.
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: Kate Valk in The Emperor Jones
Music that makes you cry, any genre: Not fair. I cry stupidly at obvious sentimental stuff. Like I cry when the dad turns out not to be dead in that Alabama song "Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)."
You personal acting idols: Buster Keaton, Groucho, Bette Davis, Peter Sellers, Brando, Streep, De Niro, Mark Rylance, Wallace Shawn. Many others.
MAC or PC? Mac. I had a PC in college and later when I was a coder during the first internet bubble, so I'm not a bigot or anything, but my allegiance to Apple dates back to the Apple II+. If CALL -151 means anything to you, you know where I'm coming from.
Most-visited websites: I won't tell you. And I've erased them from my browser history.
Most played song on your iPod: "Slave" by The Rolling Stones
Last book you read: "Trout Fishing in America" by Richard Brautigan. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor. Now dealing with "Mrs. Dalloway."
Must-see TV show(s): "I Love Lucy," "All In the Family," "The Simpsons"
Last good movie you saw: "Un jour Pina m'a demandé." Sorry about that, but the English title isn't as good: "On Tour with Pina Bausch."
Some films you consider classics: Top-of-my-head list: "Throne of Blood," "Dog Day Afternoon," "Dr. Strangelove," "Band of Outsiders," "Where is the Friend's Home?," "The Godfather," "Jules and Jim," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
Pop culture guilty pleasure: "Dance Moms." I've stopped, I promise.
Favorite Halloween costume you ever wore: I think it was was a leather cap with a gray mullet attached in back, plus policeman sunglasses. My friend wore the same thing. We bought them off the denuded costume shelves of a CVS on Halloween night, 10 minutes before the party.
Three favorite cities: New York, Berlin, Amsterdam
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Simultaneously, "Escape" by Journey and "Freeze-Frame" by The J. Geils Band. LPs of course. Gift from girlfriend, Christmas 1981.
First stage kiss: I guess it was kissing a man in Cloud 9, freshman year of college. That experience was mostly about stubble. My memory of it is: stubble.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager: In 8th grade I played Scrooge in Scrooge! This made me famous at school but let's put it this way: I was not cast for my singing. I was allowed to sing the bah-humbug song at the beginning, but not the I'm-awake-and-I-love-Christmas song at the end. I had to speak that while they played the music.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: Do I?
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: (note where)

Pre: market sides at Westville Post: bratwurst and an Optimator, Lederhosen.

Favorite liquid refreshment: The one that happens in the dressing room right after the curtain call. There are many bottles there to choose from, of which my preferred is The Macallan 12.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: Lying down.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: I did a one-man Macbeth when I was 26. That in itself is not the mistake I mean. One night I forgot to do the banquet scene. The banquet scene, as you may know, is 1) famous and 2) pivotal. I didn't realize until a few scenes later when I found myself referring to "the tyrant's feast," which hadn't happened. Inserted it there as a flashback.
Worst costume ever: If for worst you'll accept great-looking but gross on the inside, then I'll go with the full-body skintight silver faux-leather spaceship-crew jumpsuits we wore in The Wooster Group opera La Didone. This was not a costume that breathed. On some days we had two shows, and getting dressed for the second one was like climbing into a wet tube of rank ziti.
Best costume ever: Same show, when I played the boar in the boar hunt scene. Aforementioned jumpsuit peeled down to the waist, large rubber pig mask worn atop the head, large rubber dildo dangling below. Are you allowed to print that? Ukulele tucked under one arm. Apple in mouth to complete the picture once slain. Some of this may have been my idea.
Craziest audition story: I once auditioned in Mandarin. I don't speak Mandarin. It's a long story but the upshot is I spent four weeks memorizing the scene syllabically, and they offered me the part! But I couldn't do it for scheduling reasons.
What drew you to this project? Sam Gold called.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?

The essential big challenges are always the same: Can you have an experience tonight that isn't about sticking what you stuck before? Can you be honestly present with the other performers instead of trying to wrest rewards from the audience? etc. But also "what you stuck before" equals your understanding of the material, and the relationship with the audience is everything. Of course there are character concerns, e.g. you have to find a way to sympathize with your character's despicable actions, but I find the hard work is pretty much always: having integrity in your contract with the audience, and finding life in the accumulating shadow of your previous performances.

What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect of this show/character? Acting with Greta Gerwig
Most challenging role you have played onstage: Guy reading "The Great Gatsby" out loud from cover to cover, in Elevator Repair Service's Gatz.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: Iago
Leading lady role you'd like a shot at: Juliet
Career you would want if not a performer: Computer scientist
Three things you can't live without: Movies. Books. Friends.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: "If you want to master something hard, take it easy." Bertolt Brecht.