Shepard's two-act Southern Gothic piece, TABULA RASA, was produced by the Judith Shakespeare Company at the Phil Bosakowski Theatre in New York City, New York. An excerpt from her short play, DOG, was published internationally in BEST MEN'S MONOLOGUES OF 1998. Her screenplay of that same piece won a grant from the Irving Community Television Network, went to the USA Film Festival, and was featured on PBS (Dallas). Shepard's work has been produced not only in New York, but also has been produced in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana.
In 1964, Gene and the family were transferred to Titusville, Florida through DOW. DOW was involved in the storage of the rocket fuel for the NASA space program at that time, and Gene was one of their key engineers. Molly attended Coquina Elementary while in Titusville. There, Molly enjoyed going to the beach with her family, climbing the grapefruit tree in their front yard, and learning to do all the "mod" 1960s dances such as the swim, the jerk, the pony and the monkey while watching American Band Stand with her older siblings.
In 1968, the family was transferred through DOW to Lake Jackson, Texas. There Molly attended A.P. Beutal Elementary and Lake Jackson Junior High. Molly always loved to draw, paint, sing, dance, do needlecrafts and read. By age eleven, she had read the complete works of A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, Laura Ingalls Wilder and many other classical writers. She took piano lessons, sang in choir, acted in plays, took formal art training, and even took formal riding and etiquette classes. Her father had been a "Renaissance man" and Molly was encouraged by both Gene and Julie to study all of the arts.
In 1971, Gene retired from DOW and took a job as an executive with the TDC in Huntsville, Texas. There Molly attended Huntsville Intermediate School and High School, in addition to attending Sam Houston State University for two years, first as an RTF major, then as a drama major. Molly starred as "Cherie" in BUS STOP and "Domina" in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, among other plays, while at Sam Houston State. Molly was an "artsy" type who at age eleven was listening to Duke Ellington's Ellington's Indigos, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and American in Paris, and Cleo Lane and Ray Charles' Porgy and Bess. Molly had always grown up an hour's drive from the beach, (The Gulf of Mexico), and so living in a community tucked in the middle of a pine forest was alien to her.
Though Huntsville was beautiful, with its Victorian architecture and home spun appeal, Molly yearned for bigger horizons, and so in 1980, she jumped at the chance when given the opportunity to attend The University of Texas at Dallas, and to live with her eldest sister there in Richardson, Texas. Molly transferred and soon was having leads starring as "April" in COMPANY, "Mrs. Webb" in OUR TOWN, on the main stage; as well as "Carla" in KENNEDY'S CHILDREN and other pivotal roles in workshop productions there on the UTD Campus. Molly also worked tech on a number of her collegiate shows, from being prop mistress for HAMLET to building sets for FUNNY...FORUM to making corsets from scratch for OUR TOWN. In 1982, Molly graduated college with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre, and while working day jobs at such interesting employers as The Dallas Cowboys Football Club for The Dallas Cowboys Weekly, she had a number of starring or originating roles in the Dallas theatre scene such as "The Ghost of Christmas Past" in EBENEZER SCROOGE; "Sissy" in COME BACK TO THE FIVE & DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (Southwest Premiere at New Arts Theatre); "Helga" in FRANKENSTEIN; "Alais" in THE LION IN WINTER, "Frenchie" in CHARLES HARALSON SHOOTS HIS CORVETTE SOMEWHERE NEAR VAN HORN (at the Theatre Gallery / Deep Ellum), "Cynthia" in BABY WITH THE BATHWATER (Calm Eddy's) and many others in the Lower Greenville, West End, Dallas and Deep Ellum portions of Dallas. It was while working on CHARLES HARALSON... that Molly began doing publicity for local playwrights, helping to bring them to regional fame during that time period. In working with a number of emerging playwrights, Molly helped develop their new works, either acting for them, assistant directing for them, or working tech for their shows.
In 1986, Molly's second oldest sister died of cancer. Six months after her death, Molly had a daughter, Madison. It was at this time that Molly moved to Austin, Texas, to be closer to her family, who lived there. Molly even dabbled in a little acting her first year in Austin, and The Austin Chronicle stated her vocals were "Creamy Smooth but oh, so soulful" for the Hyde Park Theatre review she starred in, GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROADWAY, in which she had six solos as a vocalist including "Stormy Weather", "Memories" (from Cats), "Can't Help Lovin' that Man of Mine", and other classic jazz and Broadway vocal standards.
Molly found that working a full time job, raising Madison by herself and trying to act was just too difficult, and so she decided to quit acting which was an end to a lifelong dream. Since Molly was no longer able to act on the stage, she turned her hand to playwriting. Her first play MADNESS, is still unfinished. In 1987, her second play, GRASSHOPPER SUMMER, a dark comedy about love and death, was picked up for a full mount production through a series of staged readings with the Capitol City Playwright's group, based on the first act alone, to be produced and directed by Austinite Jim Fritzler's critically acclaimed Big State Productions. GRASSHOPPER SUMMER was also submitted by Big State to be nominated through the Scott Theatre in Austin to the Kennedy Center competition.
During this time, Molly quit her job at Dell Computer, and became a Permissions Correspondent for Holt, Rinehart and Winston Publishers, a subsidiary of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. In 1989, Molly transferred to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, College Division in Fort Worth, and within a short year, was promoted from Photo / Permissions Editor to Senior Photo / Permissions Editor, by her third year with the company. During this time, she was artistic director at the Tarrant County Arts Alliance Theatre, as featured in The Dallas Morning News article, "A Fledgling Takes Flight" which graced the cover of the "Arts" section for that newspaper.
Molly continued working with emerging artists, moving back to Dallas in 1991, to Deep Ellum, where she was a partner in an art gallery / performance art space called SKY. At Sky, not only did Molly produce and direct her play, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE HENRY MILLER; AND THE NEXT MARILYN MONROE, (which had been workshopped while Molly lived in Austin) to critical acclaim and "S.R.O." ("Standing Room Only) houses, but she also gave opportunity to emerging Texas artists such as Trippy Thompson and Stephen Prince by featuring their paintings in SKY Gallery, replete with art openings. "Is this a 'Wet Paint' show?" asked one guest of an art opening there at SKY, "Man, I love it!" In New Orleans, Molly Louise Shepard’s THE MAN WHO WOULD BE HENRY MILLER; AND THE NEXT MARILYN MONROE opened the 1991 Southern Repertory New Theatre Festival in New Orleans, juried by David Wheeler, Resident Director of the American Repertory Theatre and Dean, Arts/Humanities, Harvard. Wheeler said Molly Louise Shepard "brilliantly weds erotic fantasy and sexual struggle" in her portrayal of two characters who try to take on the personalities of their heroes in the play and lose sight of themselves and their relationship in the process.
By the mid-nineties, Molly had gone freelance as a Photo Editor, and had moved to the historical Oak Cliff portion of Dallas, which was the first suburb of the city a hundred years prior, and had started out as an artist's colony in the 1800s called "La Reunion". Molly there wrote INTERLOPER, which was produced by the Fort Worth Theatre at the Scott. In the late nineties, Molly's short work, DOG, about a girl who kills herself as a result of literally being "teased to death" due to a prolongued period of peer abuse, was both published internationally in BEST MEN'S MONOLOGUES OF 1998, and made into an art film which was shown on PBS and featured at The USA Film Festival.
During that time, Molly's Southern Gothic full length two act, TABULA RASA was being given staged readings throughout the United States, from Jim Fritzler's theatrical troupe in Austin, Texas; to The Pocket Theatre in Dallas, to The Dramatist's Guild in NYC, through The Judith Shakespeare Company. It was at the NYC Judith Shakespeare reading that a private backer wrote a check for forty thousand dollars to see that TABULA RASA was produced off-Broadway. The play was performed through Judith Shakespeare Company at the Phil Bosakowski Theatre at Primary Stages in New York City to critical acclaim.
The play starred Eve Holbrook, and Hal Holbrook, her father, was in attendance opening night. "You wrote this? How old are you? You aren't old enough to have written this?" said Hal to Molly. "I'm thirty-six, that's old enough, isn't it?" asked Molly with a smile. TABULA RASA is a story of a National Geographic style of photo journalist who has come home from New York City on assignment to shoot the Victorian architecture of her small East Texas home town, and how she finds value in the memories left behind in such a beautiful place, even though she felt limited in her youth by growing up in a small town.
The play explores the subtle acts of racism still in effect today, even after the civil rights movement of the sixties. It is a spiritual play about "Toxie", an 80-year old African American woman in her last days, as she prepares to join her family on the "other side" - that is as soon as she has dispensed with her "one and only earthly treasure", a vintage photograph, with the help of "Thadia", the photographer as she appears in the play in her youth. It is a "memory" play, where grown "Thadia" narrates, as the young "Thadia" helps the audience explore the youth that brought her to New York City to become a photographer.
"The lyricism and spirituality of TABULA RASA resembled an August Wilson play" said The Off-Broadway Review. The Dallas Examiner said, "She's a Southern Gothic writer, reminiscent of William Faulkner...Beth Henley, and Tennessee Williams, in Great Company. Molly Louise Shepard has truly written a 'gem'."
Discouraged by the limitations presented her as a regional playwright, Molly moved with her family to Los Angeles in 2001. Unfortunately, although the move was planned at least a year in advance, it coincided directly within the time frame of 9/11, so that not only did the Southern Gothic playwright and her family go through culture shock at being plunged into the society of one of the largest and most culturally diverse cities in the world, Los Angeles, where over 50 languages are spoken; but they moved during a great time of intesified national security for the United States.
During that time, her daughter, Madison, who wrote and directed a film called Black Lipstick at age 14, was flown home repeatedly for film festivals featuring her piece alongside grownup film makers. Black Lipstick is a short film about the persecution of a "goth" teen by her Principal, teacher and fellow students, and how she learns to fight back for her individuality through the use of words. BLACK LIPSTICK was shown at Vista's Film Festival, The Deep Ellum Film Festival, and The Long on Shorts Festival at the Horchow Auditorium at Dallas Museum of Art.
Madison attended Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, alma mater to Jenna Elfman, Josh Groban and many others. In 2003, Molly married her long time sweetheart, Dan Berke, and the family settled down in the beautiful Toluca Lake area just outside Los Angeles, which is just under an hour's drive from the beach. Molly is currently writing a Hollywood murder mystery surrounding the death of 1930s screen siren Thelma Todd, and working as a developmental editor by day.