“It’s amazing to do a play when everyone in the cast is so open-minded,” said Shepherd.
The underlying story of the hate-inspired attack on Shepard brings up many emotional issues that have to be addressed by the entire cast throughout the production.
The main character she portrays is Romaine Patterson — the best friend of Shepard at the time of his death. She struggles with being a lesbian in the mid 90s, and having her friend become the victim of a hate crime that shocked the nation.
“She was close to the tragedy, and I have to feel that pain and go through it for every show,” said Shepherd.
Shepherd also has to alternate between seven different and diverse characters throughout the play, including Patterson. The characters have to be varied, with only subtle changes, and remain uniquely specific.
For her first acting role, Shepherd is confident and ready to perfect her craft and set the path for the future. She began singing at the age of five and became interested in live performance at the age of 12. Small one-acts and dance shows have helped prepare her for this moment, as she continues to stick with her dreams over the years.
Right now it’s just Shepherd and her mother, whom she left in Clearwater, Fla. to pursue her college education in Orlando. Shepherd’s mother strongly supports her dreams, and never missed any of her performances as she grew up.
To have the time she needs to pursue her acting, Shepherd had to quit her last job as a baby registry representative at Babies “R” Us, and is currently living off of financial aid to make ends meet. Though she has the dream to perform on Broadway, she also has the current goal of working as a full-time entertainer at Disney.
Shepherd is also a Valencia alumni that is currently enrolled in the theater studies program at UCF beginning this fall. The recent rise in tuition at UCF is a concern for her, but she has a “Bright Futures Scholarship” and other grants to help her pay for her continued education.
Teaching kids is another passion Shepherd has in her life. Be it the subject of musical theater or something else, she has had it in her mind to work with children in some form or another eventually.
The ultimate lesson she sees in “The Laramie Project” is one of peace and understanding of others. “You just have to love everyone, no matter their choices and lifestyle.”