By day he is furthering our understanding of effective health promotion, but by night he can be anything from a vampire photographer to a proud gay dad. This month, alumnus Jonathan Shepherd celebrated 20 years performing with the Southampton University Players (SUP) by taking to the stage in their latest production.
There is no doubt that University of Southampton alumnus and Principal Research Fellow Jonathan Shepherd has a passion for performing. His love of theatre has led to roles in more than 25 productions over the last 20 years for the University’s very own community theatre group.
Jonathan (MPhil Public Health Education and Promotion, 1998; PhD Health Promotion and Public Health, 1999) says: “I joined SUP in 1997 when I was studying and working at the University. I’d acted previously in community theatre, so was pleased to discover the University had its own group.”
He was soon cast in Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, an experience that confirmed his love of the stage. He was hooked. Jonathan says: “The play was wonderful, and the experience of appearing onstage at the Nuffield (now NST Campus) was amazing.”
SUP Theatre Company was created in 1965. Members today include University staff, students, alumni, and the public who are attracted by theatre opportunities including acting, directing, writing, design, and technical support.
Jonathan explains: “We’re affiliated to the University, and are proud to call it our home, rehearsing on campus and performing on the Nuffield’s main stage at least once a year.”
He says the group, which also raises money for charity, performs at other venues and local events, including the Totton Drama Festival and Murder Mystery Dinners, and is always looking for fresh ideas and new blood. He says:
It’s great fun, and my social circle developed enormously. Those ‘social rewards’ are an inevitable part of a group endeavour like this; there’s nothing else like it. Everybody is welcome to join us: no experience is necessary. And, of course, SUP is a great way to stay connected with the University – it would be fantastic to welcome more alumni into our ranks.
Married to Mike, also an alumnus, Jonathan’s vocal talents are benefiting Southampton Gay Men’s Chorus too. In his latest SUP show, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which coincided with his 20th year performing for the Players, he played radio producer Marvin Androyd and magazine editor Albert Ross. But what of his favourite role? “Playing a version of Noel Coward in his sparkling comedy Blithe Spirit – decadent and slightly melodramatic,” says Jonathan.
He adds: “The best part of performing, for me, is the exhilarating feeling as you go onstage, knowing you’re about to perform a wonderful show that, hopefully, will make an audience laugh or cry. Being a part of entertaining people, whether acting or behind-the-scenes, is extremely satisfying.”