Behind the Curtain

Official Blog of International City Theatre

Michael A. Shepperd Knows the Power of Good Theatre

September 8th, 2015

Michael A. Shepperd

Fences opened three weeks ago to stunning reviews and audience responses. Michael A. Shepperd plays the show’s protagonist, Troy Maxson. His performance is one of the main reasons for the accolades the show has received. He was kind enough to take some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for us about the show and himself. Enjoy!

1.  As someone who has worked at ICT before (Raisin), welcome back.  How is your experience this time around?

Night and day really. While the pressure to put up a show from start to finish in 3-and-a-half weeks is incredibly intense, with Raisin we had an awful blow. We lost our leading lady a week before previews. The incredible Nell Carter passed away just before opening. There was a lot of sadness and anger and fear that was very rampant in me at the time. And I feel at times it carried over into my work. I wasn’t as focused as I should have been. The show went up with Carol Dennis replacing Nell. She was amazing. But I wish that I had handled it better. As for this show, we were a strong tight-knit family from the start and I think it shows in the work this cast is doing. I can honestly say I care very deeply for this cast.

2. What kind of preparation outside of learning your lines did you undertake in preparing for such an iconic role as Troy Maxson?

It was truly about the lines. And still very much is. I read my script daily and will still read something that wasn’t there the last time. That’s the beauty of Mr. Wilson’s works. You are constantly discovering. I also like to spend time figuring out where he lives in my body. Working on the physicality. He moves very different than me and every time I get to play him he shows me something new.

Michael A. Shepperd & Christopher Carrington in Fences

Michael A. Shepperd & Christopher Carrington in Fences

3. Troy Maxson is a role actors dream to play one day. What other role(s) would you like to undertake?

Sweeney in Sweeney Todd. The MC in Cabaret. Mama Rose in Gypsy.

4. As one of the most prolific playwrights of the modern era, what do you think makes August Wilson’s work so significant and transcendent?

He explores the human condition. So many people want to make this just a black show. This is a human show. A show about family dynamics. A show about love and betrayal and forgiveness. The same struggles all people go through from day to day. Just because it’s set in a time and place that might be foreign to some people doesn’t make the work any less valid and valuable. Any less real.

5. What do you hope audiences take from seeing Fences?

That Mr. Wilson had his finger on the pulse of not only social issues but familial ones. That even though the people on stage might not resemble your immediate family but the struggles they go through directly relate to your own. And that is the power of good theatre.


For more information or to purchase tickets to Fences: please visit or call 562.436.4610.

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