February 7, 2017
Publication day is here!
Sam Shepard's newest book - THE ONE INSIDE
- is now available. Its Knopf publisher calls
it, "A ravishing tale of deep-dark cosmic
humor, complex tragedy, and self-inflicted exile."
First, let's examine the photo on the cover.
It was taken by Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide. The
year was 1979; the place was the Sonoran Desert. If you click on the photo to
enlarge it, you can see that the woman is carrying a tape recorder,
bartered in exchange for handicrafts. She is one of the Seri nomads of
Mexico and Iturbide chose to call her "Mujer
Ángel" [Angel Woman] because "she looks as if she could fly off into the
desert." Personally, she seems closer to an evil spirit.
For at least 28 years, Sam shared his life with a woman who is
also a photographer, one who also took black and white photos of the indigenous
people of Mexico. When he wrote "Great Dream of Heaven", he used one of Jessica's
photos - Sam sitting on a wooden pier fishing with their young son Walker.
Sweet. He also dedicated those stories to her. Now he appears to have abandoned
familial connections in his old age.
The author photo above that's used for the book is not recent. It was
actually taken almost ten years ago. The last photo of Sam was taken a year ago
and many of us were stunned by his thin and fragile appearance. There have been
no reports of illness but drinking has a way of aging you if you suffer from
Rocker Patti Smith was asked to write the book's foreword. In
the whole scheme of life, Sam has actually spent very little time with her - a
few months in 1971 before he scrapped that extramarital affair and headed off to
London with wife Olan and son Jesse. Since he stopped co-habitating with Miss Lange, he
and the Godmother of Punk have hooked up now and then for public readings or music events. She even
dedicated her last book, "M Train" to our playwright. I haven't read
it yet but I absolutely loved her "Just Kids". Her reflections on life are magically
poetic. I could definitely connect. In the foreword she writes, "It’s him, sort of him, not him at all"
for it contains "altered perspectives, lucid memory, and hallucinatory
impressions." She describes the
book as "a tapeworm slithering from the stomach, through the open mouth, down
the bedsheets, straight into the bleak infinite." Umm...
Anyway, it appears that
readers will definitely have a challenge with Sam's newest offering sorting out
fact from fiction. He can't help from drawing on his own experiences hidden in all these
So, this latest literary fiction is available in three formats. For bibliophiles, there's the
deckle-edge hardcover edition with 194 pages. The second format is the Kindle
edition and, finally, the audiobook at 271 minutes. Yes, an audiobook! But take
a deep breath before I tell you it's NOT narrated by Sam. For those of you who
have listened to "Cruising Paradise", you know what an awesome experience that is
to actually hear him act out his own creative and wacky tales. Sorry folks,
but this time around, it's actor Bill Pullman. Not going to do it for me, for
They’ve murdered something far off. Fighting over it. Yes. Screaming. Doing
their mad cackle as they tear into its softness. He’s awake — 5:05 a.m. Pitch
black. Distant coyotes. Must’ve been. He’s awake, in any case. Staring at
rafters. Adjusting to “place.” Awake, even after the full Xanax, in anticipation
of small demons — horses with human heads. All small, as though life-size were
too big to fathom. His dogs are on the muscle, howling from the kitchen in feral
imitation. Vicious cold again. Blue snow biting at the windowsills: glowing in
what’s left of the full moon. He throws the blanket back with a bullfighter’s
flourish and swings both bony knees out into the raw air. He comes, almost
immediately, to a straight-backed sitting position, both hands flat on his
thighs. He tries to take in the ever-changing landscape of his body — where he
resides? Which part? He peers down at his very thick, blue, thermal hiking
socks, pilfered from some movie set. Piece of some costume — some character,
long forgotten. They’ve come and gone, these characters, like brief, violent
love affairs: trailers — honey wagons — morning burritos — craft service tents —
phony limousines — hot towels — 4 a.m. calls. Forty-some years of it. Too big.
Hard to believe. Too vast. How did I get in here? His aluminum trailer rocks and
sways in the howling Chinooks. His young face staring back at him through a
cheap 4 x 4 mirror, surrounded by bare light bulbs. Outside, they’re shooting
film of grasshoppers, falling in great swirling cones from the belly of a rented
helicopter. They actually are. In the background — winter wheat, as big around
as your thumb, blows in rolling waves.
So, you ask if there's any book reviews. Yup, and they're
In the newest work of fiction by celebrated playwright, actor, and writer
Sam Shepard, a writer and actor on in years looks back at his life, while
negotiating an increasingly volatile relationship with a much younger woman.
The nameless narrator refers to his tormentor as the
Blackmail Girl because she claims to have recorded and transcribed their phone
conversations with the intention of publishing them. They clash in taunting and
seductive encounters rife with lacerating dialogue that alternate with bruising
scenes from his hardscrabble boyhood, when he became infatuated with voluptuous
teen Felicity, who was having a scandalous affair with his father.
In a slowly cohering jigsaw puzzle of flashbacks and jump
cuts, memories and dreams, Shepard’s piercingly observant and lonely narrator
broods over the mysteries of sexual enthrallment, age’s assaults, and the abrupt
demise of his 30-year marriage in finely etched vignettes capturing the poignant
moods of wind, sky, the open road, birds, dogs, and coyotes; high drama in a
Denny’s; absurdities on a film set; and hallucinatory visions of his dead
father’s corpse shrunken to doll-size.
An elegiac amble through blowing dust and greasy spoons, the soundtrack the
whine of truck engines and the howl of coyotes.
If one word were to define Shepard, the chisel-faced actor and playwright of few
words, since his more madcap days of the 1960s, it might be "laconic." So it is
with this vignetted story, with its terse, portentous opening: "They’ve murdered
something far off." "They" are the ever-present coyotes, who, of course, kill
but do not murder, strictly speaking—but Shepard’s choice of words is deliberate
In this Southwestern landscape, where the sand cuts deep,
driven by the scouring winds along with the "Styrofoam cups, dust, and jagged
pieces of metal flying across the highway," Shepard’s actor narrator, wandering
from coast to interior and back again, remembers things and moments: the '49
Mercury coupe that delivers his father’s mysteriously mummified corpse home, the
latter-day bicycle cowboys of Santa Fe, "guzzling vitamin water from chartreuse
Like a cordonazo storm about to break, the atmosphere is
ominous, but only just: in Shepard’s prose there is always the threat of
violence and all manner of mayhem, but then things quiet down, the hangover
fades and the talk of suicide dwindles and the stoic protagonist returns to
reading his Bruno Schulz at the diner counter.
At turns, Shepard’s story morphs from novel, with recurring
characters and structured narrative, into prose poem, with lysergic flashes of
brilliance and amphetamine stutters: "Mescal in silver bottles. Tacos. Parking
lots. Radios. Benzedrine. Cherry Coke. Brigitte Bardot." It’s a story to read
not for the inventiveness of its plot but for its just-right language and
images: "Nothing but the constant sound of cattle bawling as though their
mothers were eternally lost."
Cheerless but atmospheric and precisely observed, very much of a piece with
Shepard’s other work.
In the longest work of fiction to date from the Pulitzer Prize–winning
playwright, an aged actor moves through his fragmented memories of his father,
the young girl who loved him, and the vast American landscape that served as a
backdrop to it all. Following a poignant foreword by Patti Smith, each
successive chapter of the novel flits among times and forms: there are poetic
reminiscences of the actor’s ex-wife, and terse all-dialogue conversations
between him and the lover intending to blackmail him.
Coloring those dynamics are flashbacks to the actor’s
complicated relationship with Felicity, his father’s underage girlfriend, who
also comes to take the actor’s virginity. Mixed amongst these grounding story
lines are vivid scenes of his father’s death, drug fantasies, and vague
meditations on sex and death. The last section of the book concerns Felicity’s
disappearance and apparent suicide, an event that deepens and bonds every moment
that precedes it.
Though some of the writing feels like leftovers from
discarded drafts of books and plays, much of the content remains striking and
memorable, illustrative of what makes Shepard’s work so arresting on the screen
and the page.
Washington Post:Much of the book’s contemporary story has the substance of an extended,
self-pitying sigh. In short, oblique chapters — sometimes only a small paragraph
floating on a page — we divine that the narrator, an actor and writer with "a
reputation for discarding women," is still reeling from the collapse of a long
relationship. (There’s no mention of Jessica Lange, but it’s hard not to think
of the actress who was Shepard’s partner for almost 30 years.) There’s an awful
lot of wandering around the house, looking for the dogs, feeling bereft. He
thinks about suicide, mulls his dreams, considers the smell of his urine...
...the best parts of "The One Inside" are those least hobbled by its fractured
structure and mannered dialogue. When he stops letting vagueness masquerade as
profundity, when he actually tells a story about a real man caught in the
peculiar throes of a particular moment, he can still make the ordinary world
feel suddenly desperate and strange.
The Culture Trip:
"The One Inside" is tryingly male in its
indulgence of the macho unconscious... ...a lesson in how our culture
dresses things up as things they’re not, and while the edgy cover, the
faux-poetry of Patti Smith’s foreword, and Shepard’s wannabe Beckettian prose
will deem the book cool to many a brooding American bachelor, this "cool" is one
that privileges self-pity and the evasion of catastrophic behavior over any
attempt to do the hard work of self-reflection.
The Bowed Bookshelf:
Literature, language, and its portrayal in film or on stage, has been his
work for forty years. He may be winding down, but this he can still do: write
with clarity, dreams or memories or lies or wishes or denials. This may be a
memoir, but who’s to say the memories of an old man aren’t half fiction?
I loved this work. Shepard always read a lot of books but
famous writers like Mailer, Capote, or Nabokov confused him. Shepard knew what
was important, and stashed language like memory, in red naugahyde suitcases,
ready to be pulled out in wonderment years later, and used to describe this
world of his, or ours. He may be an ordinary man (who knows?), but he has
extraordinary skill. This is a special, wonderful, joyful, ugly, painful look at
our past century, a western landscape, and a man in it.
San Francisco's Magic Theatre begins its 50th season with a
legacy revival of FOOL FOR LOVE, opening February 9th.
This timeless masterpiece first premiered at this theater in 1983. Artistic
Director Loretta Greco says, "Magic is thrilled to be bringing 'Fool for
Love' back home thirty-four years later, as the fifth event in our 'Sheparding
America: March to Fifty series'". She adds, "Sam's been writing for five
decades. There's no one who's done it for as long, in such varied forms, in such
an astounding, brilliant and imperfect way." Greco previously directed "Buried
Child" in 2013 and "A Lie of the Mind" in 2015.
"Sam's work springs from the terrain from which he's from," Greco explained.
"'Fool for Love' is a pressure cooker of desperate intimacy, the mythic fall of
the American cowboy, and the marks a father leaves on his children. It's
compact, muscular, and wickedly funny."
The play also opened at the Cellar Theater at The Playhouse
San Antonio and continues through February 12, 2017. I much prefer this poster
as it captures the raw relationships and bleakness of the story. The poster used
by Magic is quite popular and is the one you'll see on the book. To me, it looks
like Elvis sneaking a kiss from a fan. And after doing a little research today,
it is, in fact, Elvis, copyright of Alfred Wertheimer. What does Elvis (in a
jacket and tie) have to do with Eddie, a broken-down rodeo cowboy?
January 30 , 2017
You done good, Sam
In a recent interview, 93-year-old Chuck Yeager talked about
"The Right Stuff", the 1983 film chronicling the early space race in
which he's played by Sam. Often times famous people grumble about the screen
version of their life but Yeager is positive. He shares, "It
was interesting. I did a lot of flying in it, and Sam Shepard did a good job
portraying me. Barbara Hershey looked exactly like [my wife] Glennis, too --
wonderful. Though it’s sort of 'Hollywood-ized,' the whole story is accurate. I
did get burned badly in an F-104 crash. All in all, the movie is educational,
and it’s very well made."
January 19 , 2017
James Franco's IN DUBIOUS BATTLE
is about to have a limited theatrical release on February 17, 2017. It has
previously been screened at several film festivals - Venice, Deauville and
Toronto in September, Mill Valley in October and Stockholm in November. It will
be released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 21, 2017.
well be Sam Shepard's last film.
On the horizon
Another book on Sam Shepard will be released on April 11,
2017. I've read so many that I'm not sure I'm up for another one unless it
sticks to the latter part of his career and doesn't indulge itself in personal
crap like so many other tell-all celebrity books. I just finished reading Grace
Coddington's memoir "Grace". As creative director at Vogue, she had the
opportunity to be terribly gossipy but she remained respectful of the many
famous photographers and models she worked with and was mindful of editor Anna
Wintour's reputation as well. Hats off to Grace!
This one is an unauthorized biography and no doubt our
playwright will feel his privacy invaded. When asked back in 2011 about writing
his own autobiography, he responded in his Shepard-ish way:
"I’m not interested in autobiography at all. No, never. I mean, in a
way, all the plays have been autobiographical, but not confessional like that.
I’ve never read an autobiography where the protagonist isn’t the hero of his
story. It’s ridiculous. I’m just not interested in it."
December 6, 2016
Since AGES OF THE MOON
premiered at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 2009, it has been staged a handful
It arrived a year later at Off Broadway's Atlantic
Theater Company and then made appearances in West Virginia, Texas, Canada, and
is presently being staged this month in Berkeley, CA, by Anton's Well Theatre
Company. Not a lot happens in this play as two geezers fuss and drink while
waiting for a total eclipse of the moon but there are deeper layers as good
humor turns into hostility. Director John Cooper of the Canadian
production says, "It is a story of our stubborn resistance to the truth and the
narratives we create to protect ourselves from the painful truth of our
choices." It's classic Sam Shepard, who knows firsthand the painful truth
of choices. Did he become his father?
What is little known is the fact that "Ages" was also staged
at The Moscow New Drama Theatre in October 2010. Earlier that year Russian
Vyacheslav Dolgachev and Sam met up at a restaurant in NYC. After a couple hours
of conversation, Sam proposed that his newest play be staged in Russia. At that
time the play had not yet been published but he gave the director exclusive
rights for its performance in Moscow. Dolgachev said, "'Ages of the Moon'
fascinated me from the very first pages. I would say they are aged characters of
Shepard's 'True West'. They sit on the terrace and talk about nothing
particular, but then they have this electric charge between them."
The person who translated the play was journalist Sergey Gordeev
(seen above), who also translated "The Curse of the Starving Class" for the
Saratov Youth Theater for a Russian production the same year.
A Star is Born
Jasper Rees of The Arts Desk wrote an interesting article a
couple days ago called "When
Shepard was a Londoner." You may recall that Sam left the US in 1971
after an extramarital affair with punker Patti Smith and spent the next three
years in London where several of his plays premiered. Rees writes:
"Nicholas Wright, then artistic director of the Theatre
Upstairs, recalls 'a laconic, dry, very laid back, very masculine Gary Cooperish
kind of style, certainly very direct, capable of being quite rude.' 'My
impression,' says the actress Dinah Stabb, 'was that he was always keenly
interested in events going on outside the room. Although he was part of the
world of the Royal Court, he never seemed to be of it. It's no surprise that he
went on to be a film star, because he seemed like a film star when you met him."
Hilton Als of The New Yorker once wrote, "Tall, slightly
snaggletoothed, and eagle-eyed, Shepard always looked like America, or a movie
version of America: one could easily imagine him playing Tom Joad or Abraham
Lincoln. His Western drawl was an additional attraction. Joan Didion’s essay
about the charisma of John Wayne could just as easily apply to Shepard."
"He had a sexual authority so strong that even a child
could perceive it. And in a world we understood early to be characterized by
venality and doubt and paralyzing ambiguities, he suggested another world,
one which may or may not have existed ever but in any case existed no more:
a place where a man could move free, could make his own code and live by it;
a world in which, if a man did what he had to do, he could one day take the
girl and go riding through the draw and find himself home free."
November 28, 2016
It's that father figure again...
Check out the new short story by Sam in the December 5, 2016
issue of The New Yorker. It's sooooo Shepard and it's called "Tiny Man".
Visit this link.
November 4, 2016
A new book!!!
The first work of long fiction from the Pulitzer
Prize-winning playwright - a tour de force of memory, mystery, death, and life!
It's called THE ONE INSIDE. It will be available in hardcover on
February 7, 2017. Note that the foreword is by Patti Smith. It's been almost
seven years since Sam published "Day out of Days",
so I'm super excited about this new work!
The synopsis reads:
extraordinarily evocative narrative opens with a man in his house at dawn,
surrounded by aspens, coyotes cackling in the distance as he quietly
navigates the distance between present and past. More and more, memory is
overtaking him: in his mind he sees himself in a movie-set trailer, his
young face staring back at him in a mirror surrounded by light bulbs. In his
dreams and in visions he sees his late father—sometimes in miniature,
sometimes flying planes, sometimes at war. By turns, he sees the bygone
America of his childhood: the farmland and the feedlots, the railyards and
the diners—and, most hauntingly, his father’s young girlfriend, with whom he
also became involved, setting into motion a tragedy that has stayed with
him. His complex interiority is filtered through views of mountains and
deserts as he drives across the country, propelled by jazz, benzedrine, rock
and roll, and a restlessness born out of exile. The rhythms of theater, the
language of poetry, and a flinty humor combine in this stunning meditation
on the nature of experience, at once celebratory, surreal, poignant, and
Barbara Hoffert of
Library Journal comments: "The One Inside (Knopf. Feb. 2017. 192p. $25.95)
proves to be meditative and valedictory, featuring (not surprisingly) an
actor/writer recalling significant people and places in his life as the
narrative careens through time from California to Santa Fe to an Oklahoma film
set. Since this is Shepard, the protagonist is riding a sharp and polished
knife’s edge as he muses; he’s trying to persuade a young woman not to publish
some dark and damning phone conversations they’ve had together. Memories of his
father, especially during wartime; of his father’s girlfriend, with whom he also
became involved (with tragic consequences); and of the vibrant American
landscape inform the narrative. Reflections on how acting, writing, and
filmmaking really feel make this more than a novel about plot."
Another play published
On March 21, 2017, Vintage will publish Sam's 2013 play "A
Particle of Dread" (128-page paperback at $15), which re-envisions
Oedipus Rex as a modern thriller.
For those of you who aren't familiar with one of Sam's
stories from "Cruising Paradise" called "Spencer
Tracy is Not Dead", you can access it at this
Amazon link. It's a Vintage Shorts “Short Story Month” Selection.
The synopsis reads, "The ride to the tiny village in Mexico where he’s due to
film has not been easy. The actor has to first put up with Gunther, a maniac
German driver in a tuxedo, the Narcos who insist on excavating the contents of
their car, the customs official in Mexico who sends him back across the border,
and an embittered woman in the Mexican consulate for whom he must play Spencer
November 2, 2016
At the AFM
The AFM (American Film Market) is being held this week
in Santa Monica, CA. It is one of the largest film events in the world. It’s
Cannes on the California coast minus the red carpets, stars and big premieres.
From November 2-9 independent film producers try to find financing and
distribution for their projects. Los Angeles-based Premiere Entertainment Group
will attend with international rights to the psychological thriller, YOU WERE
NEVER HERE, filmed in the fall of 2014. Camille Thoman wrote and directed
the film, which stars Mireille Enos, Goran Visnjic, Vincent Piazza, Nina Arianda
and Sam as agent Paul Stark. Here's the poster.
After a woman is attacked outside of her apartment, a series
of increasingly disturbing events leads an artist (Enos), who follows and
photographs strangers, to suspect that someone out there is actually watching
her. As she encroaches on her suspected intruder (Visnjic), her agent (Shepard)
and cop/lover (Piazza) begin to think she is taking things too far with her
personal investigation. Events spiral out of control and boundaries bleed
between real and imaginary...crime and art...the watcher and watched.
Premiere Entertainment CEO Elias Axume says, "Director
Camille Thoman has crafted a deeply psychological thriller with a compelling
cast and the mysterious performance art world of New York City as an atmospheric
backdrop. We knew this was a special film and we were eager to be a part of it."
"I am thrilled to be sharing this story of the blurred lines
between aggressor and victim, madness and sanity," said Thoman. "I could not be
more proud of the tremendous work that the stellar cast, crew and producing team
have done and cannot wait for the world to witness Mireille Enos’ layered,
Producer Neal Dodson adds, "Every frame of Camille Thoman’s
film overflows with her hypnotic vision and perspective. The whole cast is
fantastic, including the legendary Sam Shepard."
Opening this month
Here are some rehearsal photos from
BURIED CHILD, which has transferred from NY
to Trafalgar Studios in London for a limited season from November 14 to February
18, 2017 with press night on December 1. Directed by Scott Elliott, the cast
includes Ed Harris and his wife Amy Madigan, Jeremy Irvine, Charlotte Hope, Jack
Fortune, Barnaby Kay and Gary Shelford. The 1979 Pultizer Prize-winning play
takes a macabre look at one American Midwestern family with a very dark secret.
Also playing in London
At Found111, 111 Charing Cross Road, you can see
FOOL FOR LOVE, being staged from October
26 to December 17, 2016.
September 11, 2016
There's no doubt Meg Ryan's directorial debut disappoints.
ITHACA had a limited theatrical release this
weekend and based on reaction from various film festivals over the past year,
it's not surprising that it received dreadful reviews. Looking over Sam's film
adaptation of William Saroyan’s "The Human Comedy" has to one of his worst films
though his performance was notable. Film critic Joe Leydon of Variety writes, "Sam
Shepard is so wonderfully engaging as the crusty Willie Grogan, an
avuncular alcoholic who spouts wisdom while sporting Harold Lloyd-type glasses,
you can’t help thinking that, in almost any other context, his performance might
generate award-season consideration." The movie is presently being rated at 13%
on the Rotten Tomatometer.
Claudia Puig of The Wrap sums it up with, "Meg Ryan‘s choice of literary adaptation for her directorial debut may have been
too ambitious: The overall effect, while earnest, is disjointed, dreary and
oddly structured. Seemingly pointless scenes drag. The characters feel like
cardboard cutouts, and the story is so deliberately paced as to feel tedious...
Generally, scenes don’t flow smoothly, and the pacing and rhythm suffers. It
feels like key swaths have been edited out. The ending comes abruptly and
awkwardly." For more reviews, check out the film page.
The poster seen above is the third one released and what's so
inane about it is Sam is not portrayed as his character with his Harold Lloyd
glasses. They just took a photograph of him from some other film, maybe "August:
Osage County". Here's what he should look like.
On the London Stage
BURIED CHILD will open
in the West End at Trafalgar Studios in November. It will feature husband and wife Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, who
starred in an off-Broadway revival of the play earlier this year. It will open on November 24 with previews beginning on November 14,
and will run until February 18, 2017. It transfers from the Pershing
Square Signature Center in New York, where it was staged by The New Group.
Artistic director Scott Elliott said, "'Buried Child' is Sam's masterpiece and I can't wait to
get another crack at it with Shepard's masters, Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, along
with some fresh British artists." The play was published in 1978 and won the
1979 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It opened on Broadway in 1996 and received five
Tony Award nominations, including Best Play.
Sam and Ed first hooked up in the 1983 film, "The Right Stuff", and our
playwright wrote the role of Eddie in his play, Fool for Love, for Ed's stage
debut. Following that partnership, "Buried Child" is now the fifth of Sam’s
plays that Ed has performed in, including "Cowboy Mouth", "True West" and
"Simpatico". Personally, I've seen over 30 Ed Harris films and though I can't
pick my favorite because there are so many top-notch performances, it's hard to
believe he's never taken home an Oscar! He should have won for "Pollock". He was
Le Cinéma de Franco
And speaking of Harris/Shepard connections, over the past
week, James Franco's IN DUBIOUS BATTLE has made
the film festival circuit, premiering in Venice on September 3 followed by a
screening at the Deauville American Film Festival two days later. On Monday, it
will have its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival
The handful of reviews thus far have been favorable and
there's much agreement among the critics. Gabriele Niola of Positive Magazine
writes, "'In Dubious Battle', whose title comes from John Milton’s 'Paradise
Lost', is everything but a perfect work, but it represents the highest peak of
Franco’s career as a director and is also a crucial point to reach a poetic
maturation, characterized by a sincere attention for social matters. If he will
manage to get rid of that annoying intellectualism that at times still emerges
from the rifts of his works, we can hope well for his future as a film-maker."
And Owen Gleiberman of Variety - "'In Dubious Battle' has to
be acknowledged as a major growth ring in Le Cinéma de Franco. He has learned by
doing, and he has acquired skills that are beginning to fuse with the best side
of his instincts, which is to look at subjects with a candor that mainstream
movies too often avoid." He also mentions Sam's role - "Sam Shepard plays a
rival farmer who agrees to house the workers in tents on his land in exchange
for their picking his crop for free. Shepard, who has always looked like he came
from the '30s, makes this farmer a compelling contradiction, a hard case with a
Sam & his Hermes 3000
Those who haven’t adjusted ecstatically to all the wonders of
modern technology will revel in the unorthodox and delightful documentary "California
Typewriter", recently screened at the Telluride Film Festival. The film
features an array of typewriter enthusiasts, including our playwright as well as
Tom Hanks, biographer David McCullough and singer-songwriter John Mayer. In his
interview, Sam states succinctly, "I never
got along with the computer screen," and he adds that he gets a rush from seeing
the ink flying on to the paper in front of him as he types and retypes a new
August 17, 2016
Director James Franco's IN DUBIOUS
BATTLE will receive its international premiere at the Venice Film
Festival on September 3, 2016. Production took place last year in March and
April and was mostly shot in the Atlanta area. This adaptation of John
Steinbeck's Depression-era novel has an impressive cast, including Franco
himself. It stars
Nat Wolff, Selena Gomez, Vincent D'Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, Sam
Shepard, Josh Hutcherson, John Savage, Ashley Greene, Zach Braff and Bryan
The story takes place in the California apple country where 800 migratory
workers rise up against the landowners after getting paid a fraction of the
wages they were promised. The group takes on a life of its own - stronger than
its individual members and more frightening. Led by the doomed Jim Nolan, the
strike is founded on his tragic idealism - on the "courage never to submit or
yield." The film will also be screened in the "Special Presentation" category at
the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which runs from September
Here are a couple more production photos. The right one shows
director James Franco with Ed Harris.
August 4, 2016
Finally there's a trailer for Meg Ryan's ITHACA.
Check it out
link. This month the marketing strategy for the film is aimed at
focusing on the cameo appearance of Tom Hanks trying to promote positive
memories of the duo in films such as "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got
Mail". To date the film has only been screened at film festivals, but it appears
that it will have a limited theatrical release (usually NY & LA) on September
9th. The latest review comes from Alistair Harkness of The Scotsman: "Ryan has no real sense of
how to craft a story from behind the camera. She also switches point-of-view and
introduces dream sequences and hallucinatory images at odd moments. The
stylistic mishmash is jarring to say the least. Even the performances – usually
a strong point for actors-turned-directors – are leaden, with only Sam
Shepherd’s turn as the town’s drunken chief telegraph operator coming close to
conveying the gravitas this wannabe prestige picture is desperately striving to
June 21 MIDNIGHT SPECIAL was released on DVD
and Blu-Ray. I'm not a sci-fi fan but I have admired films in that genre, such
as "Starman" and "ET." Those particular films were enriched with those heart
words - lightheartedness and heartwarming. You might even have laughed. Let me
assure you there are no laughs in "Midnight Special". It is dour and dark,
serious and intense. Michael Shannon, who plays the boy's father, has a constant
scowl on his face from beginning to end. Personally, I think the director should
have done more of a follow-up on cult leader Calvin Meyer, played awesomely by
Sam. But hey, the critics loved this film so what do I know?
The play's the thing...
FOOL FOR LOVE is
being staged through August 14 at Princeton Summer Theater, performing at
Hamilton Murray Theater on the campus of Princeton University in Princeton, NJ.
The Catastrophic Theatre of Houston, TX, will present
BURIED CHILD from September 9 to October 1.
TRUE WEST will be
presented by Shattered Globe Theatre, Chicago, IL, from September 8 to October
Letter to the editor of the Hartford Courant
"Our democracy was hard-earned but could be very easily lost.
Playwright Sam Shepard once said that 'democracy's a very fragile thing. ... 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.'
Trump's scare tactics threaten to turn our democracy into 'something else' and
we all must take the responsibility to ensure this does not happen. Trump must
be soundly defeated. He is wholly unworthy of your vote."
July 9, 2016
New Archival Collection
Off-Off-Broadway’s La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club has
launched its new Archival Digital Collections website, which features a treasure
trove of photographs, production stills, key art, scripts, videos and press
clippings. Here is a 1991 photograph of Sam during a run of his "Melodrama Play"
at La MaMa.
Ithaca at EIFF
doesn't appear to be a good year for Meg Ryan. Besides disastrous reviews for
her ITHACA directorial debut, she received even
more disastrous reviews for her plastic surgery after she took to the stage at
the Tony Awards. Anyway, her film was screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival
last month and, not surprisingly, continued to receive bad press. I'm curious as
to why there has not been one video clip or trailer released to this date even
though the film was shot two years ago. The story comes from William Saroyan's
1943 novel, "The Human Comedy". It was previously filmed that same year with
Steven Armour, Serving Cinema: "Scarcely seen on screen in the past decade, Meg Ryan has joined
the ranks of A-list stars trying their hand at directing with her feature film
debut Ithaca, a period drama set in 1942 in the wake of the attack on
Pearl Harbor and America’s subsequent decision to join the allies in the Second
World War. Though dutiful in its treatment of the subject at hand, Ithaca
is ultimately devoid of any authorial stamp or stylistic flare, proving a
pedestrian first foray behind the camera by Ryan that may also be her last...
Sam Shepard is the only character of much note in the film, and even then
the role isn’t much of a stretch for an actor of his caliber."
Matthew Anderson, CineVue: "Foremost in Ithaca's
problems is a woeful script. Never wont to unduly criticize a fellow writer,
it's nevertheless very difficult to find any positive comment to make about the
dialogue offered to the big hitters on the bill here. In letters received from
Marcus, the phrase 'I wish there was no war' sums up the very obvious
anti-conflict sentiment though none of his suffering is shown. Through other
eye-rollingly bad moments we finally hit rock bottom with 'There will always be
pain in this world.' Looks of indignation on the faces of a cast loathe to
enunciate such drivel beg the question as to how the project proceeded without
going back to the drawing board. Despite having only a marginal role herself, in
trying so hard to be thought-provoking and profound, Ryan forgets to develop
character past the planning stages, resulting in no emotional involvement at
Allan Brown, Movie Review World: "Despite its whimsical
nature, stilted dialogue and continual bombardment of oversentimentality, there
are some notable performances throughout. Willie (Sam Shepard) and Tom
(Hamish Linkletater) both shine as Homer's new bosses at the local telegraph
post. Their presence in the film adds a much needed injection of life and humor
into the proceedings... Despite the actors being plagued with stiff dialogue
exchanges from a screenplay that's almost impenetrable, Neustaedter and the
whole cast salvage what they can from it, and at times, even manage to evoke a
spark of emotion, in this overwise drab and confused drama."
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