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Writing for Us

A CurtainUp Feature
An Overview of Shepard's Career

Check out our Playwright's Album for more famous playwright profiles

Sam Shepard
The playwright, actor and director has been a seminal presence in contemporary American theater. He's best known to some as an actor, most famously for his Oscar nominated portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff in !983. His film career includes screenplays and directing as well and he's also directed many of his own plays.

Did Shepard always want to be a playwright? It would seem, so given that he had an amazing 30 plays produced by the time he was thirty — but not according to this 1971 statement: "I don't want to be a playwright, I want to be a rock and roll star.".

Topics Covered
PERSONAL STATISTICS AND EARLY LIFE
PLAYWRITING HALLMARKS AND INFLUENCES
CHRONOLOGY OF PRODUCED PLAYS
ACTING AND OTHER CAREERS
OTHER MEDIA
AWARDS AND HONORS
LINKS TO REVIEW
QUOTES FROM SHEPARD'S PLAYS AND BY AND ABOUT HIM



PERSONAL STATISTICS AND EARLY LIFE
He was born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. The name on the birth certificate: Samuel Shepard Rogers III; thedate, November 5, 1943. He changed his name to Sam Shepard when he moved to New York.

Married to O-Lan Johnson Jones (1969-1984) —. one son, Jesse Mojo Shepard, b. 1970 (author of book entitled Jubilee King.
Domestic Partnership with Jessica Lange since 1983 — one daughter, Hanna Jane, b. 1985 and one son, Samuel Walker Shepard, b. 1983.

Other Family Members: Two younger sisters, both show business connected. The youngest, Sandy Rogers, switched from acting to directing (she was assistant on Shepard's Lie of the Mind). The middle sibling, Roxanne Rogers, is a singer-songwriter who wrote the country theme song "Let's Ride" for his Fools For Love, and all the songs for the filmed version of that play.

Early Life
His father, Samuel Shepard Rogers, was an Air Force man,who studied on a Fullbright fellowship after World War II and taught high school Spanish and played the drums, as did his son. His mother, Jane Elaine (Schook) Shepard, was born in Chicago. The family eventually settled in California, where they raised sheep and grew avocados. Though this sounds like a happy enough youth, it was shadowed by his father's alcoholism and the subsequent deterioration of the family.

Shepard was an indifferent high school student, though he did read poetry and was greatly influenced by reading Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. He studied agriculture at San Antonio Junior College for a year before joiningg a touring company of actors, settling in New York around 1962 to pursue theatrical interests though his first "role", a was as a waiter at the Village Gate.

His first play, Cowboys, was autobiographical, and received a good review in The Village Voice and was followed by a series of reputation-building one-act plays produced in off-off Broadway theaters. He became a full-time writer with the aid of Rockefeller Foundation and Guggenheim grants.

Shepard's first Village Voice Obie Award was for Chicago, Icarus's Mother and Red Cross (1965-66). His first play to be produced in London as well as New York was the surreal comedy, La Turista (1967). Operation Sidewinder (1970), a satire on the '60s social and political turmoil was his first major production\.

PLAYWRITING HALLMARKS AND INFLUENCES The influences of Samuel Beckett's absurdism was evident in Shepard's early plays which tended to be full of surprises (a dead chicken on stage, characters ensconced in bathtubs) and a downbeat '60s mood. He was also strongly influenced by the European drama of the '60s. Also important was his meeting and later collaboration with the writer-director Joseph Chaikin, a veteran of the Living theater and founder of a group called the Open theater. Shepard acknowledged him as a valuable mentor.

Script Trademarks
Shepard's characters are often deprived of their dreams and sense of continuity. His plays express a sense of loss, nostalgia for the original rural world and the national myths, destroyed by pragmatism, money and power. In the modern world, the connection between myth, land, community, and a feeling of purpose in life had been broken. As Shepard explains it "All we have is ideas that don't speak to our inner self at all."

The playwright initially tended to write long monologues but as explained in Playwrights at Work,edited by George Plimpton: "I realized that what I'd written was extremely difficult for actors. I mean, I was writing monologues that were three or four pages long . . . Now it's more about elimination." He admitted that his characters still "sometimes move into other states of mind without any excuses. Something lights up and the expression expands." (Note: Interestingly, some of the stories in his latest collection of stories tend to be no more than a few paragraphs long!)

CHRONOLOGY OF PRODUCED PLAYS
1964 Cowboys
1964 The Rock Garden
1965 Chicago
1965 Icarus's Mother
1965 4-H Club
1966 Red Cross
1967 La Turista
1967 Cowboys #2
1967 Forensic & the Navigators
1969 The Unseen Hand
1969 Oh! Calcutta! (contributed sketches)
1970 The Holy Ghostly
1970 Operation Sidewinder
1971 Mad Dog Blues
1971 Back Bog Beast Bait
1971 Cowboy Mouth (with Patti Smith)
1972 The Tooth of Crime 1974 Geography of a Horse Dreamer
1975 Action
1976 Suicide in B Flat
1976 Angel City
1977 Inacoma
1978 Buried Child
1978 Curse of the Starving Class
1978 Tongues (with Joseph Chaikin)
1980 True West
1981 Savage Love (with Joseph Chaikin)
1983 Fool for Love
1985 A Lie of the Mind
1987 A Short Life of Trouble
1991 States of Shock
1993 Simpatico
1998 Eyes for Consuela
2000 The Late Henry Moss
2004 The Notebook
2004 The God of Hell
2007 Kicking a Dead Horse
2009 Ages of the Moon

ACTING AND OTHER CAREERS
Sam Shepard, the Actor
Shepard's acting career gathered steam when he was cast as the handsome land baron in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978) but his most famous film role was as Chuck Yearger in The Right Stuff (1983). His first play to be made into a film was Fool for Love (1985) directed by Robert Altman.

Miscellaneous Career activities
Drummer for the 1960s rock band The Holy Modal Rounders (featured in the 1969 film Easy Rider).
Teacher. Over the years Shepard taught playwriting and other aspects of theater, which included a stint during the 1970s as a Regents Professor at the University of California, Davis. In 2007 Shepard was featured playing banjo on Patti Smith's cover of Nirvana's song, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," on her album Twelve.

OTHER MEDIA
Books by Shepard
In addition to published collections of his plays, Shepard has written original fiction and been the subject of books by biographers and theater historieans. Fiction by Sam Shepard
Day out of Days: Stories by Sam Shepard 2010
Great Dream of Heaven: Stories by Sam Shepard
Cruising Paradise: Tales by Sam Shepard 1997
Hawk Moon: Short Stories, Poems, and Monologues 2001 Rolling Thunder Logbook -- collage of short stories, notes, poems 2004

Books About Shepard
The Cambridge Companion to Sam Shepard by Matthew Roudané (2002) Playwrights at Work, ed. by George Plimpton (2000 A Body Across the Map by Michael Taav (1999) The theater of Sam Shepard, ed. by Stephen J. Bottoms (1998) Sam Shepard by Carol Rosen (1998) Sam Shepard and the American theater by Leslie A. Wade (1997) Sam Shepard by Don Shewey (1997) Sam Shepard by Laura J. Graham (1995) Sam Shepard on the German Stage by Carol Benet (1993) True Lies by Jim McGhee (1993) A Reconstruction-Analysis of 'Buried Child' by Playwright Sam Shepard by Frederick J. Perry (1992) Rereading Shepard, ed. by Leonard Wilcox (1992 Sam Shepard: A Casebook, ed. by Kimball King (1989) Sam Shepard's Metaphorical Stages by Lynda Hart (1987) American Dreams, ed. by by Bonnie Maranca (1981)
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AWARDS AND HONORS
1979 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Buried Child.
1983 Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Chuck Yaeger) in The Right Stuff
1984 Nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay (BAFTA award) for Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas.
1986, elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which also awarded him the Gold Medal for Drama in 1992.
1994 Inducted into the theater Hall of Fame.
1996 Tony Award Buried Child
1999 Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Mini Series (He played Dashiel Hammett in Dash and Lilly
2006 SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries (He portrayed Frank Whiteley in Ruffian).
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LINKS TO REVIEWS
Ages of the Moon/ Sam Shepard(Off-Broadway 2010)
Cowboy Mouth (Philadelphia 2003)
Fool For Love (London)
Fool For Love/2002
God of Hell/Shepard, Sam (Off-Broadway 2004 )
Heartless (Off-Broadway 2912(
The Late Henry Moss (Off-Broadway 2001)
The Late Henry Moss/Shepard, Sam (London, 2006)
A Lie of the Mind/Sam Sehpard ( The New Group 2010)
The Lie of the Mind (London 2001)
A Lie of the Mind (Off-Broadway 2003)
Pure Accident contribution to multi-playwright Motel Blues (Off-Broadway 2004)
The Tooth of Crime (Off-Broadway 2006
True West/Sam Shepard (Berkshires WTF 2009)
True West (Broadway 2000)
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QUOTES FROM SHEPARD'S PLAYS AND BY AND ABOUT HIM
Quotes From Plays
Lee: I don't need toast. I need a woman.
Austin: A woman isn't the answer. Never was.
Lee: I'm not talkin' about permanent. I'm talkin' about temporary.
True West.

.Anybody who doesn't half kill themselves falling off horses or jumping on steers is a twerp in your book. — May to the aging macho lover who has hitched his horses to his tin trailer and pursued her to the shabby motel where she is attempting to make a life without him in Fool For Love

. You are either going to erase me or have me erased.— May in Fool For Love

There's gonna be a general lack of toast in the neighborhood this morning. . . —Austin The toasters were stolen to disprove Lee's declaration: "you couldn't steal a toaster without losin' yer lunch." — True West

I remember it like a war
—Earl Moss about the big 'blowout' that ripped his family asunder in The Late Henry Moss..

I'm an honorable kind of person. I've served my country. I've dropped bombs on total strangers.
—-Henry in The Late Henry Moss.

Is there any good reason why men leave women? — Lorraine in A Lie of the Mind.

I know--love. I know what love is. I can never forget. That. Never—Beth in A Lie of the Mind.

so here's another illusion to add to your confusion
Of the way things are
Everybody's doin' time for everybody else's crime
.
— Hoss, singing "The Way Things Are." in The Tooth of Crime

Quotes by Sam Sehpard
For me, playwriting is and has always been like making a chair. Your concerns are balance, form, timing, lights, space, music. If you donít have these essentials, you might as well be writing a theoretical essay, not a play. Violence and conflict are part of the music. Thereís no way to escape the fact that weíve grown up in a violent culture, we just canít get away from it, itís part of our heritage. I think part of it is that weíve always felt somewhat helpless in the face of this vast continent. Helplessness is answered in many ways, but one of them is violence. —Sam Shepard in February 11, 2010 New York Times interview with Patrick Healy, Theater is a place to bring stuff from your life experience. You send this telegram, and then you get out.—Sam Shepard in a PBS documentary.

I feel like I've never had a home. You know? I feel related to the country, to this country, and yet I don't know exactly where I fit in. And the same thing applies to the theater. I don't know exactly how well I fit into the scheme of things. Maybe that's good, you know, that I'm not in a niche. But there's always this kind of nostalgia for a place, a place where you can reckon with yourself. Now I've found that what's most valuable about that place is not the place itself but the other people; that through other people you can find a recognition of each other. I think that's where the real home is.

I like cars. I like travel. I like the idea of people breaking down and I'm the only one who can help them get on the road again. It would be like being a magician. Just open up the hood and cast your magic spell.— Don Shewey biography.

The sides are being divided now. It's very obvious. So if you're on the other side of the fence, you're suddenly anti-American. Its breeding fear of being on the wrong side. Democracy's a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it's no longer democracy, is it? It's something else. It may be an inch away from totalitarianism.— The Village Voice, Nov. 12, 2004 I'm a writer. The more I act, the more resistance I have to it. If you accept work in a movie, you accept to be entrapped for a certain part of time, but you know you're getting out. I'm also earning enough to keep my horses, buying some time to write.— Don Shewey's Sam Shepard We're being sold a brand new idea of patriotism. It never occurred to me that patriotism had to be advertised. Patriotism is something you deeply felt. You didn't have to wear it on your lapel or show it in your window or on a bumper sticker. That kind of patriotism does not appeal to me at all.— The Village Voice, Nov. 12, 2004
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