Chester Shepherd is currently playing Christopher in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, which runs through Oct. 27. In the play, adapted from Mark Haddon’s 2004 book, 15-year-old Christopher – who defines himself as having “Behavioural Problems” in the book, and is generally described elsewhere as being on the autism spectrum – investigates the death of a neighbor’s dog. Last season, Shepherd tackled the challenging lead in ATC’s “Hand to God”; a 4 1/2-year resident of Charlotte, he’s also worked with PaperHouse Theatre and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. We asked him a few questions about his work, influences and Charlotte.
What specific moment or aspect of the piece you’re doing right now makes you most proud? I love that the play (and book from which it’s adapted) presents Christopher as a complex, multi-faceted person. He’s not neurotypical, but there’s so much more to him than that fact. And he’s the hero of his own story.
What’s something you’d want people to know before they see your work, or something that would help them understand what you’re aiming for? I hope they know that I strive to work from a place of empathy and a desire to understand.
Can you offer an insider tip to the audience: something they should watch for that’s particularly excellent or insightful? Watch for the ensemble work — everyone is onstage for much of the show, and each person is adding fascinating little details to the show.
What’s an obstacle you had to overcome in your career? Letting go of control while acting.
What’s something about you that would surprise people who know you or your work? I look pretty young but have actually been married for almost six years and we have our first baby on the way!
Who in Charlotte has most influenced your work? I’ve worked with a lot of great theatre artists here. But my wife, Katy, who’s also an actor, probably has the biggest influence on me. It’s pretty wonderful to share artistic passion with your partner.
Have you had a spectacular failure you’d be willing to tell us about? Can’t think of one. Maybe I need to take more risks.
Is there a secret or surprise in the Charlotte arts scene that you love and would divulge? Check out The World Famous Tampones at Petra’s on Oct. 28. Hilarious, charming cabaret act.