Artistic director of the largest LGBTQ theater in Los Angeles fired after investigation of sexual misconduct

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A celebrated LGBTQ theater director has been fired for claiming to be a sex plague who performed oral sex on one victim, caressed another, and talked about masturbating for a gang rape scene in a Jodie Foster movie.

Michael Shepperd, an actor and director who has appeared in Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, was fired from Celebration Theater in Los Angeles after an internal investigation determined that allegations of wrongdoing against him were credible.

Michael Taylor Gray told me LA Times Shortly after he started working at Celebration Theater in 2006, Shepperd pulled down his pants and performed oral sex with him after a show.

Gray, a casting assistant and company member, said he remembered feeling guilty and confused by the experience, which also triggered his experience as a childhood sexual abuse survivor.

“You are in a whirlwind of so many thoughts and emotions, and there is no way you can think clearly,” Gray told the LA Times.

“It’s all very blurry and easy to get caught up in that” I’m wrong too “thought and blame yourself.”

Shepperd told the Times that sex with Gray was consensus, and that the couple had had sex on several occasions and maintained a close friendship thereafter.

Gray confirmed this, but said that he had remained on good terms to perpetuate their professional relationship, and that the behavior was consistent with a pattern of abusive behavior.

Michael A. Shepperd, longtime Artistic Director of the Celebration Theater in Los Angeles, was fired after two actors reported sexual misconduct

The allegations came to light after actor Andrew Diego said Shepperd touched him inappropriately during a 2019 production of The Producers

Michael A. Shepperd, left, Artistic Director of the Celebration Theater in Los Angeles, was fired after two actors cited sexual misconduct. The allegations came to light after actor Andrew Diego, rightly so, said Shepperd touched him inappropriately during a 2019 production of The Producers.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Shepperd first came to light after actor Andrew Diego, 33, wrote a lengthy Facebook post on April 14 about being groped by Shepperd during a 2019 production of The Producers.

Diego said that during warm-ups, Shepperd would grab him around the waist from behind, breathe down his neck and stick out above him, and propose him for sex.

“ When he said that when the show ended and we didn’t have to be ‘professional’ anymore, he absolutely wanted to fuck me, ” Diego wrote. Facebook.

Diego also alleged that Shepperd told him he always masturbated during a gang rape scene from The Accused.

In the 1988 film, Jodie Foster saw Sarah Tobias, a young waitress who was raped by three men, while others watched and cheered. Foster won an Oscar for Best Actress for her performance, which was praised by survivors of sexual assault.

Shepperd admitted to masturbating over a disturbing gang rape scene from the 1988 movie The Accused with Jodie Foster depicted in the role.

Shepperd admitted to masturbating over a disturbing gang rape scene from the 1988 movie The Accused with Jodie Foster depicted in the role.

In an interview with the LA Times, Shepperd denied doing anything wrong, saying that the relationships, moving, and graphic conversations were common in a “ sex-positive, queer safe space. ”

He admitted that the claim about The Accused was true, but dismissed it as being over-shared, adding: “ We had conversations in a sex-positive, strange, safe space, and that’s one of my truths coming out. came. ‘

Shepperd’s victims told the newspaper that they were reluctant to make accusations against a celebrated black performer for fear of being labeled racist.

Shortly after Diego posted his allegations in April, Celebration Theater hired Susannah Howard of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers to investigate.

The theater also allowed actors and staff involved in productions in the theater to respond anonymously to an online survey.

Howard’s final report found that Shepperd’s actions went beyond those of a safe work environment and included “other credible reports of misconduct.”

Shepperd has repeatedly denied the allegations and criticized the investigation for being too secretive.

In a statement from his attorney Jordan Susman, he said the theater had “refused to share with Michael or even provide details of it.”

“Michael categorically denies all allegations of wrongdoing and regrets the lack of due process that led to Celebration Theatre’s decision,” the statement said.

In his Facebook post, Diego said many people were hurt by Shepperd’s actions.

Andrew Diego's April 14 Facebook post exposed allegations of sexual misconduct against Shepperd

Andrew Diego’s April 14 Facebook post exposed allegations of sexual misconduct against Shepperd

Shepperd, pictured with Tracie Thoms, attends the opening night of 'Sweat' at the Mark Taper Forum in 2018. He has denied all allegations of wrongdoing

Shepperd, pictured with Tracie Thoms, attends the opening night of ‘Sweat’ at the Mark Taper Forum in 2018. He has denied all allegations of wrongdoing

Diego said he reported the abusive behavior to the show’s director at the time, but word came back to Shepperd that he had complained, and it made their professional working relationship unbearable.

In his Facebook post, Diego said the behavior had existed “ in the ambiguous ‘this is theater’ gray area, which, especially in a queer space, meant it was accepted as part of the culture ”.

And it is made even more painful by the fact that you are such a force within our community and have done so much that is amazing. I am furious with you, not only for your behavior, but also for betraying your own goodness. ‘

Diego also mentioned the “culture of protection and loyalty” that existed to Shepperd, and artistic directors in the theater in general, “regardless of what is brought to the attention of management.”

Shepperd was the theatre’s Artistic Director or Co-Artistic Director from 2008 to 2011 and again from 2013 to 2021.

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