PENTHEUS IN 'DIONYSUS IN '69' - "ROCK FREAK" IN 'PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE'
William Shephard, the memorable "Rock Freak" in Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, passed away two weeks ago, on December 1st. His daughter, Amy Elizabeth Shephard, shared the news on Facebook that day:
My sweet Papa, Will Shephard, passed this morning. It was a long process and he is finally at peace. My Dad lived life to the fullest. He loved good food, good music, and time spent laughing merrily with those he loved best. So much of who he is inspired the actor and performer I am today. He also inspired my love of Film. He played King Kong in the 1970s version and he played the rock freak in my favorite cult movie of all time, Phantom of the Paradise. He play Pentheus in Richard Schechner's Dionysus in 69 and through that play was arrested for indecent exposure in Ann Arbor Michigan (which he always recalled with such amusement). I will love him always and will miss him. But I know he is with me, he lives through me and I intend to honor his legacy by following the advice he always gave me, "look for the light." Rest well papa, may your next adventure be as glorious as you were.
Working with William Finley in Dionysus In '69 as part of The Performance Group, Shephard introduced Finley to Susan Weiser, who had been a student of Shephard's when he taught at Immaculate Heart in California. Finley and Weiser fell in love and got married. Susan Finley can be seen running around and rocking out with Shephard throughout the climactic concert/wedding where everything comes apart (see images below-- it is Susan who takes Winslow's mask from him after he removes it). According to the Swan Archives' Principal Archivist, Shephard and others from The Performance Group "were recruited for Phantom to 'train' the extras to act like a true concert audience, and to rile them up and get them excited."
The Archivist mentions (in a December 2, 2019 post about Shephard's passing) that Shephard had published a memoir about working on King Kong, titled Inside King Kong: A Journal. Shephard had also published a book called The Dionysus Group. Google Books carries the following description of the latter:
The Dionysus Group is a story from tumultuous times in American history (1967-1970) told through the eyes of a young actor in New York's Off-Off Broadway production of Dionysus in 69 by The Performance Group, directed by Richard Schechner. William Shephard, a founding member of the Group, played a leading role as "Pentheus," the young King of Thebes, in the Group's adaptation of Euripides', The Bacchae, and he chronicles the extraordinary formation, development, and realization of the Group's ethos in Dionysus in 69. Shephard describes the formation of a Group Mind in which the interpersonal forces within the Group became mirrored in the production; where the casting and performance of roles in Dionysus in 69 reflected conflicts within the Group, itself, and conflicts in American society at large. Themes of passion, intoxication, violence, and bloodshed in Dionysus in 69, were indicative of the times, and The Performance Group's unique use of "audience participation" captured the attention of American and International theater audiences in startling ways.