January 12, 2019
Netflix documentary IT TAKES A LUNATIC profiles Wynn
Handman, who’s hailed as "the keystone of American theatre." He founded the
highly influential American Place Theatre in New York City, directing a number
of plays and he taught acting classes for more than 50 years. His former
students such as Richard Gere, James Caan, Michael Douglas, and Frank Langella
reflect on his influence on their careers as well as the theater community
through his desire to give opportunities to upcoming talent. You'll also spot
Sam Shepard in this film, which is currently available thru Netflix. Shepard
productions in the American Place's early years included 1967's "La
* * * * *
And speaking of "Killer's Head", the play has been announced
in an upcoming double bill by Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in Los Angeles. The
second half is his 1969 one-act "The Unseen Hand"
- that is part of the Odyssey's 50th Anniversary "Circa '69" Season of
significant and adventurous plays that premiered around the time of the
company's inception. Check for dates running from January 25 thru March 8 at the
theatre web site.
October 6, 2019
My apologies are in order for this web site being offline for
the past week or so. My tech support informs me they were having server issues
but all is well now. My frustration levels were at an all-time high in the
amount of time it took to resolve these problems. Grrr....
September 24, Patti Smith's latest memoir "Year of the Monkey" was
released by Knopf publishers. It's a short book at 171 pages. Amy Skorheim of
Digg writes, "Like everything Smith does, the book is suffused with honesty and
poetry. If you read it and aren’t sure where reality ends and imagination
begins, you’re probably reading it correctly. Each chapter is headed by one of
Smith’s photographs taken over the course of a year in which Smith experiences
loss, wanders, travels, witnesses a polarizing election and drinks a lot of
coffee. Travel through that year with her and get an artist’s take on death,
aging, politics and dreams, shot through with insight and optimism in the
Here are some comments reviewers have made regarding Sam:
Adrienne Gaffney, SF Chronicle:
"In May, she’s in Midway, Kentucky with Sam Shepard, who is being overtaken by
ALS. The pair spend hours editing one of his final books 'The One Inside' and
endlessly discussing literature, Smith spending her nights asleep on his sofa.
What has been lost is apparent to both. 'From the window, we could see his
horses coming up by the fence. Horses that he could no longer ride. He never
said a word about it.' Smith doesn’t turn away, and they find delight wherever
they can, delightedly making bets on the Derby."
David L. Ulin, LA Times:
"The real reckoning 'Year of the Monkey' makes, however, is with mortality —
This means 'Sandy' Pearlman, fading in Marin County, and most essentially,
Shepard, cared for by his sister in Kentucky, surrounded by the horses he can no
longer ride. 'We’ve become a Beckett play,' Shepard jokingly tells Smith,
leading her to imagine them 'rooted in our place at the kitchen table, each of
us dwelling in a barrel with a tin lid, we wake up and poke out our heads and
sit before our coffee and peanut-butter toast waiting until the sun rises,
plotting as if we are alone, not alone together but each alone, not disturbing
the aura of the other’s aloneness.'"
"One friend Patti speaks of often is Sam Shepard. She writes beautifully and
tenderly about sleeping on the couch at his place in Kentucky, listening to the
sounds of him breathing and the night outside. Patti helped Sam write his final
book, 'Spy of the First Person'. She recounts how, when he can no longer write,
she does it for him; she describes seeing his guitar in the corner on its
stand—at the ready, but never to be played by him again. She is losing him
little by little."
"Sam comes up again toward the end of the book. She reflects
on their relationship and writes about the present and her fear of a future
without him—things we don’t think about before a certain age. She writes about
Sam living with his sister in Northern California, and the way she describes his
sister’s devotion and love is simple and moving. You can feel his decline—the
silence, the inevitable. Yet every day they work, because that’s what he has
always done and will do until the end. Which is coming fast. Patti keeps moving
through it all, something she has always done."
Kaitlyn Tiffany, Vox:
"Smith’s decades-long friendship with Shepard — along with their tumultuous love
affair in the 1970s — is a part of her mythology, one of the many connections
she’s made by chance in some bar in Chelsea and that came to define the
trajectory of her career. But it’s not often that she’s spoken of it in such
personal and frank terms as she does in this book, setting down an image of one
of the country’s greatest playwrights while he struggles to use his hands. She
makes no effort to play up or explain her devastation, which is obvious: 'He
looked more like Samuel Beckett than ever, and I still harbored the hope that I
would not be destined to grow old without him,' she confesses, before moving
Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star:
"During this year she visits him often on his Kentucky ranch. It’s difficult
even to read about Shepard in a wheelchair — the celebrated playwright, always a
handsome and vital man — is losing the use of his hands as the ALS he was
diagnosed with in 2010 gets progressively worse; far more so to imagine what
it’s like for Smith. 'We had trips planned, and all kinds of things we were
going to do in the future,' including to Ayers Rock in Australia, she says. 'I
never saw that coming. He was always so healthy. I never anticipated that.'"
In a recent NY Times interview, Patti was asked why the two
split after writing "Cowboy Mouth". She replied, "Well, he was married and he
had a child and it was sad, but it was just the right thing to do." And was she
surprised when Sam became a leading man in Hollywood? She responded, "No,
first of all, he was a really great actor in plays and theater. He had a
magnetism. He was one of the most handsomest guys you would ever see, more even
in person than in film. But that isn’t even what I liked about him, which was
funny because it was so obvious that he was so handsome. People were just drawn
to him. We’d walk down the street and women would come up, hit on him and they’d
just say right in front of me, ‘Get rid of the kid.’”
And in a book
interview with Billboard, Patti shares, "With this book, my challenge to myself
was try to keep it in time. Sometimes I did regress backwards to explain this
and that. I was not anticipating that I was going to have to write about the
death of one friend in time, and then the struggles of one of my closest people,
Sam, also in time. It was different in that way. The dignities of these two men
were very important to me, so I had to really think about how to express certain
things. But also, you know, have a certain amount of discretion, and anticipate
how each man - since I knew them both so well - would feel about what I wrote. I
felt like both of them would appreciate what I wrote. I didn’t feel like I wrote
anything that they’d be unhappy about."
August 28, 2019
On August 12, 2019, Brian Tanguay of the Santa Barbara
Independent wrote a review on Sam's final collection of writings - SPY OF THE
FIRST PERSON. Tanguay writes, "As a writer and man, Shepard was ever
seeking. 'What exactly is the experience of the present?' he wonders, and goes
on to answer, 'The experience of the present is one of anonymity. Complete
anonymity.' Perhaps that is what Shepard felt as the end drew near."
But how could the man feel ANONYMITY? We're talking
facelessness, namelessness, nowheresville and obscurity. Now, if you think of
the antonyms, there's where the truth lies - celebrity, fame, notoriety and
renown. Like it or not, Sam, you were FAMOUS!
* * * * *
AGES OF THE MOON will receive its long-awaited UK
premiere at the Vaults Theatre in London on October 17, 2019. The play will be
directed by Alexander Lass and will star Christopher Fairbank and Joseph Marcell.
Curtain time is 8 pm on Tues-Sat and 3 pm on Sat-Sun with the production running
through November 24th. Description: On a hot summer's night, deep in the
American wilderness, Byron and Ames are reunited by mutual desolation. By the
fading light of an eclipsing moon, the pair reflect on love and life over a
bottle of whiskey - and as old rivalries flare, their forty-year friendship is
put to the test at the barrel of a gun.
July 31, 2019
Sam's daughter-in-law MAURA HARRINGTON passed away at
age 53 on July 16, 2019.
She is survived by her husband, Jesse Shepard, her parents, Tom and
Dianne Harrington, her sister Bridget and her brother Michael. In lieu of gifts,
donations are welcomed at
An unusual obituary follows. Perhaps it was written by Jesse
She was a trailblazer of all things creative, artistic,
political and gastronomic. She was a maverick.
She understood humans and little creatures and trees and Spirit.
She was kind, generous beyond belief.
She was sharp, quick and smart about it.
She was fluid, easy, and graceful in all her actions.
She was the face of Love.
She raised up the sight line for everyone.
And, not the least of it, she was fun - an adventurous traveler, always good
for lively conversation, played great music you'd never heard before, threw
together the most memorable dinner parties.
She was a prolific painter, furniture designer, graphic artist, photographer
and collector- always applying her precise sensibility and innate aesthetic
to everything in her life
Good design was everything to her and she didn't lack opinions about it.
She was a storyteller.
She spoke Norwegian, French and Spanish and could get by in Mandarin. If she
didn't speak your language, she would be sure to connect with you through
her eyes and a smile.
For so many, Maura was a north star and a compass.
She shall ever be so.
Maura was a pioneer in the Healdsburg community, co-founding the
award-winning Flying Goat Coffee in 1994 with partner, Phil Anacker. She
continually worked at the business to deliver the quality for which it is
renowned while always advocating women's equality in coffee- from farmers in
Africa and Latin America, to her staff in Sonoma County.
There's a new addition to The Sam Shepard Web Site. An
excerpt from Jesse's 2003 collection of short stories called "Jubilee King" can
be found on this page.
July 27, 2019
On July 27, 2017 Sam left us but his presence lives on in our
memories and through his many works as an actor, director and writer. Graeme
Wood has written an article for next month's issue of The Atlantic
called "Sam Shepard Saw It All Coming: The family battles he described
foreshadowed our current national crisis." You can read it
at this link.
Wood writes, "He died two years ago, at the age of 73, and
although the valedictions from the dramatic world were respectful, few suggested
that his work was acutely relevant. Some hinted that he represented the classic
Western, a genre whose exhaustion Shepard himself had lampooned. Obituaries
noted the good looks (described as 'rugged,' although only his teeth were
craggy) that helped make him a movie star, and his status as the 'paragon
playwright of the American West' (Los Angeles Times). Shepard, one might
be forgiven for thinking, chronicled a cowboy world that is no more, and that
indeed ceased to live in the American collective imagination sometime between
the last episode of 'Bonanza' and John Travolta's dismount from the mechanical
bull in 'Urban Cowboy'. But Shepard plays are back in season, and they are
neither antiquarian nor regional. They are modern—even visionary—and
Tobias Carroll of InsideHook agrees and writes, "Graeme Wood
makes the case that Shepard's body of work has become even more relevant to
modern American society in recent years. It's a thoughtful examination of how
Shepard’s preferred themes converge with the present state of American politics,
and why his work resonates more deeply than ever. A number of Wood's conclusions
are chilling, even as they also leave the reader clamoring for more revivals of
April 28, 2019
Netflix will be releasing the documentary "Rolling Thunder
Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese" on June 12.
Netflix hasn't released many details about
the content of the film, other than the previously issued
logline, which says that the film "captures the troubled spirit
of America in 1975 and the joyous music that Dylan performed
during the fall of that year" and describes it as "part
documentary, part concert film, part fever dream." The only cast
list being released for now mentions Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg
and Sam Shepard, who wrote a
book about the experience.
Concurrent with the streaming release, the film will have
theatrical engagements in New York and Los Angeles. The night before the
official release, Netflix will present one-time "road show" theatrical showings
set for 20 cities - London, Paris, Washington, D.C., Nashville, Philadelphia,
San Francisco, Boston, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Portland, Tulsa, Tempe, Chicago,
Cleveland, Minneapolis, Bologna and Sydney — as well as in L.A. and New York,
the two cities where the film will continue to play the following day and
April 6, 2019
San Diego theatre group The Casual Company will present Sam's
"Geography of a Horse Dreamer" as part of a
month-long tribute called "Deep in Shepard Territory". The reason for doing this
now is that it was in April 40 years ago that Sam won his Pulitzer Prize for
"Buried Child." And the reason for picking "Horse Dreamer" for the full
production was because it was a play that project director Joe Powers had done
27 years ago and he saw that it resonated in new ways now. Powers believes Sam
had a gift for defining rural America.
Powers explains, "It's the family's struggling to find their
way through America and keep up with it, but at the same time not lose the
essence that formed this country. There's an immense amount of old West imagery
in the Sam Shepard stuff. There is a connection to the land, a disconnection
with family, and then there's a feeling of trying to reconnect and mostly I
think it was visceral. There's a reality to it that's also enhanced by fantasy
and taking it to the next level. And 'Horse Dreamer' pits a lot of archetypal
characters against each other. Things like old cowboys, old gangsters. It's very
American, very rural, very human, I think more than anything, it's very human.
There's an immense poetry to his work. When you get deep in Shepard territory,
that's where the poetry is. You get these monologues that are these people
expressing their angst or expressing their love or expressing whatever it is
they're expressing. And then all of a sudden it's just flowing and it's very,
very poetic. But it is also just people talking and I think that's probably what
Shepard does really, really well."
Each evening after a performance, audience members will be
asked to bring a one-to-three-minute piece from their favorite Shepard work and
ask one of the actors to read it. In addition, there will be staged readings of
"Buried Child" on April 16 and "Fool for Love" on April 22.
"Deep in Shepard Territory" hopes to remind audiences of what
Sam's legacy is. Performances begin April 5 at Tenth Avenue Arts Center.
* * * * *
Also in California is the Preatorean LLC Productions' staging
of "Simpatico", directed by Derek Long. First produced in New York 1994,
the play is an American drama set in California and Kentucky. It is running
through May 5 on Sundays at 8 pm at The Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd,
Gorgeous poster! As a equestrian and horse breeder himself,
Sam had a strong connection to horses and they inevitably show up in his
books, several of his films, as well as on stage. In 2008, he attended the World
Science Festival in NYC where he related this humorous story called "You
Can Lead a Horse to Water". Presented with an innovative storytelling
organization, The Moth, scientists, writers and esteemed artists tell on-stage
stories about their personal relationship with science. In keeping with Moth
tradition, each story must be true, and told without notes in ten minutes. The
story that Sam relates is about the time he brought his personal horse to the
set of "The Right Stuff". You can watch his performance
at this link.
* * * * *
I recently came across these wonderful black & white photos
from the 1997 film "The Only Thrill".
Sam's role as Reece McHenry is one of my favorites and he
nails it with the help of Diane Keaton. Kevin Thomas of the L.A. Times expresses
my sentiments exactly - "The Only Thrill proves to be a poignant,
contemplative drama about lost chances with luminous portrayals by a perfectly
matched Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard, who were first teamed in 1987's Baby
Boom... The chiseled, laconic Shepard is the actor of choice if you want
reticence in spades, but he goes beyond that to show us a man shriveling up
before our eyes, seeming to grow literally smaller... Frankly, it's hard to
imagine the film working without Shepard, who can suggest so much that's knotted
up behind a stoic facade. The Only Thrill offers him one of his most
substantial screen roles, right up there with Volker Schlondorff's neglected
Here's an additional treat - a montage of several scenes
created by an anonymous blogger.
April 2, 2019
Casting is complete for the upcoming off-Broadway revival of
the drama "Curse of the Starving Class". Tony
nominee Terry Kinney will direct the production, which will begin previews on
April 23 and open on May 13 at the Pershing Square Signature Center. Tickets are
now on sale. Last produced by Signature more than 20 years ago, the play follows
the Tate family, who are living a stagnant, unhappy existence in rural
California and are desperate for a change. The production is scheduled to play a
limited run through May 26.
March 10, 2019
Before Sam died in 2017, he asked Ethan Hawke to star in the
Broadway revival of "True West", stressing
that he wanted the revival to be truer to the idea that the brothers are not
interchangeable, as other productions have cast them as. According to Vulture,
one of Hawke's preshow rituals includes a tribute to the playwright. Sam's first
book was titled "Hawk Moon" and Hawke has a fake-ink crescent applied before
every performance. "I think in his early 20s, he had a little hawk moon tattooed
on his hand, a little green sliver of a moon. The first sliver of moon in
November is sometimes called the hawk moon. I’ve always been fascinated by it
because he writes about that moon which usually happens on his birthday, which
is November 5. Mine is November 6," Hawke says. "There’s something about this
play that feels directly distilled from his heart, his brain, and so I wear that
tattoo for the run in a kind of homage to the playwright."
Attending the opening night after party on January 24th were Sam's children
Hannah and Walker. The second photo shows the pair photograhed with the play's
director and cast, including Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano.
Besides the Broadway revival, "True West" was also staged at
London's Vaudeville Theatre from December 4 through February 23. The production,
which marks the first U.K. production of a Shepard play since his death, stars
"Game of Thrones" star Kit Harington and "Hangmen" alum Johnny Flynn. Here's a
photo of Sam's daughter Hannah with Harington and Flynn at the after party at
the Foundation Bar on December 4th.
January 25, 2019
night Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano bowed as brother versus brother in the Broadway
revival of TRUE WEST at Roundabout Theatre
Company. Hawke first saw the play when he was about 14 years old and confessed,
"It made me want to be an actor, or be involved in whatever they were doing. So
to get the chance to do it now is very meaningful to me." Though Hawke has
worked on numerous Shepard plays, he reveres True West. He praises the
man with "He is one of the great American poets we've ever had. He had the
swagger of a real cowboy and he had the brains to back it up."
Alexis Soloski of The Guardian agrees, "Shepard is the great poet of wounded
masculinity, of men who would be cowboys if the world would only offer them
territories, frontiers, wildernesses. Instead they ride in circles, tearing up
their own internal turf."
Hawke relates his initial thoughts on the play - "Before Sam
died, I had wanted to direct it with women to expose how the female psychology
is just as vulnerable to this war. I started working on it with Marin Ireland
and Martha Plimpton, and it was amazing! I wish we could do that production, but
Sam didn’t want to. Sam’s cut from another cloth. He’s from a different tree in
the forest—an older part of the forest! He was utterly baffled by the
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1983, True West
is arguably Sam Shepard’s funniest play. Directed by James Macdonald, this
revival stars Ethan Hawke as Lee and Paul Dano as Austin. I am a great admirer
of Ethan Hawke's work but I have to admit the sight of Dano annoys the hell
outta me. Truly. Though Hawke is receiving rave reviews, many theater critics
are not enthralled with Dano's performance.
Robert Hofler of The Wrap writes, "Hawke nails Lee... He is
giving the performance of his stage career... Dano has mastered a low-key,
naturalistic style of speaking, but Austin is anything but understated in the
second act when he challenges his brother for supremacy in their mother’s house,
as well as the world beyond. Dano doesn’t make a convincing drunk, which is a
real problem for a role that requires his character to be totally smashed for
most of the second act. But more serious is his inability to match Hawke’s
energy, presence and intensity. Instead of confronting Lee, Dano’s Austin
* * * * *
French photographer Brigitte Lacombe included a
portrait of Sam among her selected 40 images in her October 2018 exhibit in
Bucharest by The Romanian National Theatre Festival. There's a reflection in the
second photo showing a visitor taking the photo. I've never seen this portrait
obviously taken after he became ill.
July-August 31, 2017
January - June 2014
January - June 2011
July - December 2010
January - June 2010
July - December 2009
January - June 2009
July - December 2008
January - June 2008
November 2005 - December 2006