“I live my life without regrets, chasing a dream I may never obtain. But I'm not done yet!"
Sally Shepard is an event technician for BML Blackbird in New York City. She’s in charge of setting-up lights and power for live theatrical and corporate events. Sally doesn’t hide that she dreams of one day performing in front of a large crowds on Broadway. She’s aware that her ambitions will not be easy to achieve, but Sally is determined to work hard as a technician while she perfects her acting craft and waits for that opportunity.
Going beyond the dress rehearsal
Growing up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Sally knew she wanted to be on stage. In high school, her teachers taught her that being an actor is not limited to memorizing and performing lines; a true professional rolls up their sleeves and goes beyond the curtain to make sure the show is the best it can be. With this wisdom in hand, she went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Performance from Stephen F. Austin State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Acting from New York Film Academy.
All the world’s a stage
Sally’s first job after college as a theatrical technician came when she least expected it. After a final performance in an operetta, she changed out of her costume into work clothes and went back to the stage to help disassemble the set. She was in full makeup, had a head of ringlets, and a drill in her hand, working side-by-side with the crew while most other actors left for the night. Sally wasn’t obligated to stay; her high school training came flooding back to her and she expected it of herself. The crew lead was impressed and offered her a job on the spot. She worked there for many years on and off and always goes back to visit when she’s in Dallas.
New York tourist becomes accidental event technician
After living in Los Angeles for 10 years and working in the film industry as an independent film producer trained by mentor Christina Mauro of Fly High Films, Sally came to a personal crossroads in her life. At the beginning of 2018, she came to New York City for a one-month vacation. However, she got bored being a passive tourist, so friend and mentor, Shane Salk, Producer/Actor/Voice-Over Artist connected her with a few smaller off-off-off-Broadway theaters. Sally ended up freelancing with the backstage crew for about 10 venues and decided to stay. By the end of the year, she found a permanent position at BML Blackbird, adding event work to her growing resume.
Working for her big break
As an event tech, long 12-hour days and difficult locations are commonplace and in addition to building and tearing down sets, Sally often gets down and dirty “mucking around” in basements, trucks and fields. She also spends time in the BML Blackbird warehouse organizing and maintaining electrical gear and learning how to use some of the more technical tools.
In a male-dominated event and theater technicians’ industry, Sally notes there are external challenges.
“The best advice I can give to women in my industry is to have a thick skin, but don’t let anyone step on you. You do you – be as feminine or masculine as you like,” she says. “Conversely, don’t step on anyone else on your way to wherever you want to be. We’re a small community and need to support and respect each other.”
Sally faces internal challenges, as well. Having become an event tech with no formal training, Sally admits that she often second-guesses herself when using equipment on the job. When working in theater, she says it’s hard to watch others acting on stage while she’s just 10 yards away. Sally addresses that yearning by re-centering and re-focusing, reminding herself of what she needs to do to achieve her goal and envisioning the reward. She also relies on the guidance and mentorship of her close friend Pamela Jaye Smith, Producer/Screenwriter/Writing Consultant and owner of MYTHWORKS LLC.
As an event tech, Sally needs to wear hard toe, anti-slip shoes to protect her from potential impacts and slippery locations. At the warehouse, or at standard gigs she doesn’t mind wearing scruffy-looking, large, men’s work boots. However, while working prestigious events with a more formal dress code, men’s work boots are not a “class act”.
When she heard about Xena Workwear’s fashionable steel toe shoe, she knew she found the solution to her dilemma. “They’re perfect for safety and femininity and I like how comfortable they are,” she says. “To top it off, they’re reasonably priced – they cost the same as my regular work boots.”
The only time you’ll hear us say, “Break a leg!”
We hope this extra boost of confidence and versatility will help Sally make an impression that can lead to her big break.