December 11, 2017

Patti's tribute to Sam last Tuesday in celebration of his book release was written up at this Vogue link. It's a great overview of the evening by Rebecca Bengal. In the following, she describes Patti: "Taking a seat on the edge of the stage as her longtime collaborators Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan played a rendition of the folk ballad 'Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie' —a cowboy lament for the man with the cowboy mouth—she rocked to its loping rhythm and seemed briefly overcome. Then she caught herself, flashed a warm smile to Shepard’s three grown children, Hannah, Jesse, and Walker, seated in the second row." And later in the evening, Patti tells her audience, " We were friends for more than half a century." The photo below is one of my favorites:

A few more reviews of "Spy of the First Person" have surfaced this past week. Sam Sacks of The Wall Street Journal quotes the old man in the story - "The thing I remember most is being more or less helpless and the strength of my sons." Sacks writes, "At last he has no choice but to accept the company of others as he travels through the wide American somewhere." Yes, the lone cowboy needs someone to scratch his itch or wipe his ass. Biographer John J. Winters, who wrote "Sam Shepard: A Life", refers to Sam as the "wounded cowboy" who retires to his Kentucky home to await death. In his review, Winters writes, "When the doctor tells him there’s a problem, his response is pure Shepard: 'I know something is wrong. Why do you think I’m in here? He just looked at me with a blank stare.'" Reading that, I can feel an icy wind sweeping over my face and it feels prickly...

And Winters goes on to point out an observation that no one else thus far has mentioned. He writes, "Shepard’s last written reflection is, appropriately enough, about fatherhood, something he’d dealt with in life, on pages and stages, for more than a half century. However, notably missing from 'Spy of the First Person' is any mention of his own father."

How true, but what about the glaring absence of a certain woman who was the love of his life for almost 30 years? She's missing from the pages of this "fictional memoir" and her presence is missing from his final weeks on his deathbed, but at least brave Patti Smith/Mighty Mouse arrived to save the day. As you can witness in the documentary, "Shepard & Dark", perhaps Sam never had the courage to address those painful issues that were too close to his heart, not even at the end of his life.

December 6, 2017

Last night Patti Smith performed at a tribute concert for Sam in celebration of the release of his book. The event took place at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn. During a performance of "Dancing Barefoot", Patti forgot one of the lyrics and began laughing. "What is it? I've sung this nine million times," she said. "You know what, Sam really liked when I did this. He would actually taunt me and be somewhere and get my attention so I would mess something up. And he had this coyote laugh, I can't explain it. So I'm sure he's enjoying this right now."

December 5, 2017

Guess how I spent this afternoon? Yes, reading "Spy of the First Person". We'll call my thoughts "Musings by Coymoon". Let me preface this by saying except for "The One Inside", I have thoroughly enjoyed the stories of Sam Shepard, and even more so when they were narrated by him, such as his audiobook, "Cruising Paradise". In this last volume of his work, I find a man completely absorbed in the physical deterioration of his body without any reflection on life and death.

These stories, often fragments, equate to nothing more than dream sequences that we all experience. As Jocelyn McClurg (USA Today) points out, "The reader must follow the flow; but, like trying to decipher someone's dreams, it's not always easy." Shall we call in Dr. Freud? Except for the last two chapters of this sparse book, there's nothing significant or meaningful and what you'll find mostly on these pages are the ramblings of any old man obsessed with the restrictions that his illness has brought upon him. Nothing more. However, I believe I did recognize his friend Johnny Dark and wife Scarlett [Olan's mother].

Wouldn't "love" be a word that would frame your remembrances of someone? Wouldn't "death" be a word that could be better defined as you "stand on the edge of life and see the Darkness"?  [The Seventh Seal]

I am a stickler for writing reviews for books, film [Roger Ebert being the worst!] or theater without giving away the plot or without including way too many quotes. If you go read through the many reviews, you probably have already read this book! Truly!

* * * * *

I always wanted to take this photo

December 4, 2017

Tomorrow "Spy of the First Person" will be released and I expect my edition to arrive shortly thereafter. Presently, the EW web site is featuring actor Michael Shannon reading an excerpt from the audiobook.  Shannon appeared with Sam in "Mud" and "Midnight Special." In addition, the actor performed in several of Sam's plays. This year alone, he participated in a June reading of "Curse of the Starving Class" and acted in a five-week run of "Simpatico" at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey.

When "The One Inside" was published, I indicated my dislike of its cover with a photograph by Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide. Dark and depressing. Here again is another of her images called "El señor de los pájaros en Nayarit (1984). Tibetans believe vultures are angel-like figures that will take the souls to heaven, but in the bible, when blessings and curses are given to Israel, God warns them, "Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away". Under this curse, the gathering of the vultures symbolizes the height of defeat, disgrace, and personal insignificance, when no defenders are left to keep the scavengers from tearing a human body apart just as they would a dead animal. What is Sam trying to say?

In an inversion of a typical dedication page, where the author often thanks his or her family, "Spy of the First Person" is dedicated to the author himself: "Sam’s children, Hannah, Walker and Jesse would like to recognize their father’s life and work and the tremendous effort he made to complete his final book."

And obviously it was a struggle for our writer to finish his last work. When using his typewriter became too difficult, he wrote out his notes with  pen, and when that became impossible, he used a tape recorder. In the end he simply dictated his words to his daughter Hannah or his sisters Roxanne and Sandy.

Knopf editor LuAnn Walther says, "People think of Sam Shepard as the solitary cowboy of American myth riding off into the distance, but in truth, he was dedicated to his family his whole life." I beg to differ. Does this include his parents? All his children?  Have you ever seen a photo of Sam with his sisters? She continues, "He was adamant that he didn't want the book to be categorized as a novel even though he was told it could create marketing problems. He said, 'why does anybody need a label.' You have to remember that Sam was always adamant through the years that he would never write a memoir. But what about a memoir of his dying?

Hannah says, "The line between fact and fiction in his own work was always very ambiguous to Sam, I believe. Many things blended together for him." Note that she refers to her father by his first name. And again when she states, "Sam was suspicious of technology, and the failure of these devices and computer programs just confirmed his lack of faith in them, I think. Recording was a very different experience for him than the physical act of writing, and he found it somewhat disorienting, but adjusted."

He made the final edits just a week before his death, dictating small changes to his daughter as she read the manuscript to him, start to finish. "Some of the funniest lines in the book, in my opinion, he added in our last edit," Hannah says. She chooses not to point out which lines. "I would rather keep this personal, as a memory between me and my father."

In a March 2010 interview with The Guardian, Sam opened up a bit about his only daughter. He revealed, "I never thought about having a daughter and then I had a daughter and it was a remarkable thing. It was very different from having a son and your response to it. With a son, it's much more complex. And it's probably because of my stuff in the past. With a daughter, I was surprised at how simple it is." It's to her, he says, that he intends to leave his notebooks, "because she's the one who's asked for them."

December 2, 2017

In 1998 PBS' Great Performances presented a television special by Oren Jacoby called "Stalking Himself". The documentary emphasized Shepard’s identity as an "odd, contradictory presence on the American cultural scene."

"He’s well-known but unknown, handsome and seductive but willfully remote," Will Joyer wrote in a New York Times review of the film. "He’s almost too easily the archetype of the authentic American, at home in the wide open spaces but not really at home anywhere."

In the documentary, Shepard also said he was uneasy about being too easily pinned down as a character he’d played on TV.

"I think we’re faced with a dilemma now that’s terrifying. You can just get rid of you altogether and make you an image," he said. "In fact, we prefer the image to the human being. We’d rather watch you on television than talk to you."

I think that's a very interesting observation and certainly applies to him.

After Sam died, filmmaker Oren Jacoby spoke about the difficulty in making this documentary:

"It was my first time working with Bob Richman, already highly regarded as a cinéma vérité cameraman. Still, it was a shock when we started shooting a rehearsal on our first day and Bob kept filming our main character (Sam) from behind or the side, always at a distance, and mostly pointing his lens at the other people in the scene. After a few minutes of this, I started first to whisper and then physically to try and nudge him around to the front, so we could at least see both eyes of the man our film was about. 'Trust me,' Bob said, 'he doesn’t want me there.' It was as if he had some special cameraman radar and was picking up a vibe that there was this invisible line that should not be crossed. (Bob told me recently that Shepard was the hardest and 'most private' subject he’s ever dealt with in all his years shooting documentaries.)

"But we respected that line and slowly, over the months that followed, we gained Shepard’s trust (or at least resigned acceptance – or maybe he just forgot we were there!) and Bob was able to move around and film him from the front. Then, one day, after repeatedly putting off our request for a one-on-one on-camera interview, Shepard turned to me and said something like, 'OK, let’s go do this.'  We found a corner near a window so we wouldn’t have to take time to put up lights or spoil the mood and filmed an almost two-hour conversation. Shepard went into a deeply personal exploration of his life and career, something he never did again on camera, and something that would never have happened if Bob had barged in front of him on our first day.

When Jacoby was asked what memory stands out for him today, he replied:

 "I remember a moment when we were filming him doing a series of plays in New York and he was collaborating with different directors and one of them was Joe Chaikin, who had been somebody that he really admired and learned a lot from in his early days as a playwright. Joe Chaikin had recently suffered a stroke and had aphasia and didn't have the same language that he'd had as a younger man when they'd worked together. And to see how Sam was very protective of Chaikin and kind of loved and respected him and wanted to, you know, help him still be able to work, even though he'd been through this illness — it was just a very tender moment watching them working together."

"And another great moment I remember with Sam is we were in a rehearsal room and there was an upright piano in a corner, and in a break in the rehearsal, he went over and started pounding out this amazing kind of jazz blues on the piano, Albert Ammons or one of these 1920s Harlem piano players."

November 30, 2017

Colette Bancroft, writing for the Tampa Bay Times, reviews Sam's latest book -

"A brief and impressionistic novella...  Spare, but not slight, surreal yet stoic, an intriguing and moving glimpse into what falls away and what still matters at the end... Fame and celebrity make no appearances in Spy. Instead, its dying narrator focuses on the landscape and the natural world: the songs of birds, the color of flowers, beloved dogs and horses. His memories are not of awards and parties, stages and movie sets, but of the youths of his children, of his travels as a young man, of living in a condemned building in New York with no money but the world open before him."

And Alasdair Lees of UK's Independent writes,

"Clocking in just over 80 pages, Spy of the First Person is clearly partly autobiographical, narrated by a man in his later years being treated for a crippling illness.  ...captivates in its distillation of many of Shepard’s enduring themes - the death of America’s frontier, identity and loneliness... There’s foreboding amid the wistfulness, but it’s tempting to read this novella as Shepard looking at America in a more elegiac light... Shepard illuminates loneliness beautifully in this slight but rich and moving final work."

November 28, 2017

I've added another article in the "press" section that was written as a tribute to Sam by David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter. Here's an excerpt:

"His single scene as the suicidal alcoholic poet in the otherwise patchy 2013 screen version of Tracy Letts’ great play, August: Osage County, was the film’s one moment of lingering emotional impact — far more arresting than all the showy histrionics of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts combined."

Speaking of Streep, there's an interesting article written by Michael Bloom on the American Theatre web site called "Streep and Shepard: 2 Straight Arrows Ascending". You can read it at this link. Here's an excerpt:

"Although their paths never crossed, Shepard and Streep followed a common trajectory from theatre fame to cinema stardom. As a highly trained stage performer, Streep took to film acting with great ease. On the other hand, just as with playwriting, Shepard learned on the job. In his early films, directors cut as many of his lines as they could but couldn’t resist his authentic Western look and smoldering sexuality. Eventually film acting became a way for Shepard to finance farms, livestock, horses, and polo racing. But no matter how many acting gigs he took for the money, no matter how many books of prose produced, Shepard continued to return to the theatre, a lover he never forsook."

November 25, 2017

An evening called "Remembering Sam Shepard" will be held Tuesday, December 5, 2017 from 7 to 9 pm at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn. Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, and Tony Shanahan present an evening of words and music to commemorate the publication of Sam's last book, SPY OF THE FIRST PERSON. It is co-presented by PEN America and Knopf, with Books are Magic. Tickets are $30 (includes a copy of Sam's book). How admirable of Patti Smith to continue to pay homage to her one-time lover and friend when another famous ex-lover has done jack squat since Sam's death.

* * * * *

Buzzkill, an improvised drama, inspired by the plays of Sam Shepard, will be coming to Chicago in January. Directed by Rachael Mason  and staged at the Blackout Cabaret, performances will be held on Sundays at 8 pm from January 7-28, 2018. The description follows: "A family dinner to remember. Come see Rachael Mason’s Dramatic Improvisors at the dysfunctional family table as they take inspiration from Sam Shepard plays like Buried Child, True West, and Curse of the Starving Class."

* * * * *

Question of the Day: Did Johnny Dark and Sam ever reconcile before his death? Is Johnny the only one who knows?

November 22, 2017

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has announced a screening of "Paris, Texas" on Sunday, December 24, 2017 at 2:00 pm at the Harry and Mildred Remis Auditorium. Its star, Harry Dean Stanton, often claimed of all the movies he acted in, this was his favorite. In the film summary, MFA writes:

Stanton liked to tell the story of how he landed the role, which began with a drunken conversation with his friend Sam Shepard in a bar in Santa Fe. "I was telling him I was sick of the roles I was playing," Stanton recalled in a 1986 interview. "I told him I wanted to play something of some beauty or sensitivity. I had no inkling he was considering me for the lead in his movie." A few days later, Shepard called Stanton at his LA home to offer him the part of Travis, 'a role that called for the actor to remain largely silent … as a lost, broken soul trying to put his life back together and reunite with his estranged family after having vanished years earlier.'

* * * * *

Jeanne Moreau and Sam Shepard died in the same week, the playwright at 73 on July 27, the actress at 89 on July 31. Their obituaries were paired in the pages of the New York Times and Antonio Banderas posted their photographs side by side with his message on the Los Angeles Times remembrance blog: "thank you for enlightening us at 24 frames per second."

* * * * *

Letters from Shepard to Dark - November 28, 2009

"Just got finished bawling my eyes out after reading the deaths of Lee and Grant you sent me. Thanks for that. Good thing I was on the farm alone so no one could witness my wailings and carrying on to the trees, the sky, the wind, etc. - a full out King Lear breakdown. Felt very good after. Cleaned out. Maybe that's how it is. Felt very good after dying. No problem. It's life that's a bitch."

"Thanksgiving passed with all the usual frenzied cooking, then devouring of the bird & all the fancy side dishes, then the washing up; the screaming kids, the tense terse conversations with relatives you don't know & only see at Thanksgiving & Xmas."

* * * * *

Here's hoping your Thanksgiving will be a more joyous occasion with both love and turkey passed around the table!

November 19, 2017

A couple years ago photographer Laura Wilson put together a 231-page coffee-table book of photos. It was called "That Day: Pictures in the American West".  Among her photographic essays was the one below, taken in June 2012 at the Santa Fe Institute. 

That same day Ms. Wilson was also a guest at his New Mexico home, an adobe house, ten miles out of town. This next photo shows Sam in his yard showing off a fancy new fly rod to his photographer, casting here and there, demonstrating its capabilities. Such a Shepardesque photo session!

November 16, 2017

Poet M Sarki's review of "Spy of the First Person":

"The death of Sam Shepard creates a sudden void in the landscape of contemporary literature. This talented writer, dramatist, horseman, actor, and musician leaves as his final gift to those of us fortunate to have known his body of work a thinly veiled memoir of the first rank. In prose reminiscent at times of his good friend Patti Smith, Shepard eventually recounts the last of his precious days on earth surrounded by his loving family and friends. In one poignant sentence Shepard affirms that in a span of one year he went from being a fiercely independent and private wanderer traveling in his pickup truck to a man in a wheelchair who can barely raise his head and cannot possibly wipe his own ass. There is nothing sentimental or self-serving in this book. Shepard’s honesty on the page remains as seething as his life. A testament to one great artist, and for some, a very good friend."

* * * * *

Actress Analeigh Tipton, who co-starred with Sam in James Franco's "In Dubious Battle", claims, "In 2015, I went on a road trip with Sam Shepard. He gave me a dime to toss into the Mississippi River as we drove across the bridge. It hit a support beam and missed the water. I would introduce him to Cracker Barrel and he would tell me about his horses. We ate bags and bags of Bugles as we passed through plains as far as our eyes could see. Rest In Peace in the plains, Sam."

Umm... Interesting. I thought he enjoyed solo road trips.

November 13, 2017
Booklist has published a review of "Spy of the First Person".

A gorgeously courageous and sagacious coda to Shepard’s innovative and soulful body of work.

A meshing of memoir and invention, it snares with virtuoso precision both nature’s constant vibrancy and the stop-action of illness. Told in short takes pulsing with life and rueful wit, it portrays one man spying on another from across the street, raising binoculars to better watch his subject struggling to make the simplest motions and family members appearing from within the house to offer help and company. As for the nearly immobilized man, he is remembering his immigrant mother, a troubling night in New York City, and visits to a famous Arizona clinic in pursuit of a ‘magic cure.’ He also offers acid commentary on episodes in American history, and revels in the resonance of words.

Gradually the spy and the man on the porch merge, and the resilient yet reconciled narrator celebrates family love beneath a full moon in the farewell beauty of twilight.

The book is also available as an Ebook and as an audiobook with reader Michael Shannon. Here is the official author photo.

From the beginning of the book:

Seen from a distance. That is, seeing from across the road, it’s hard to tell how old he is because of the wraparound screen porch. Because of his wraparound shades. Purple. Lone Ranger. Masked bandit. I don’t know what he’s protecting. He’s actually inside an enclosed screen porch with bugs buzzing, birds chirping, all kinds of summer things going on, on the outside — butterflies, wasps, etc. — but it’s very hard to tell from this distance exactly how old he is. The baseball cap, the grimy jeans, the old vest. He’s sitting in a rocking chair, as far as I can tell. A rocking chair the looks like it was lifted from a Cracker Barrel. In fact, it still has the broken security chain around one leg. I think from this distance it’s red but it could be black, the rocker, some of these colors originate from the Marines, some of them from the Army, some from the Air Force, depends on the depth of one’s patriotism, and he just rocks all day. That’s all.

November 12, 2017
Derry Now, November 11, 2017 (edited):

In the autumn of 2013, Sam Shepard spent five weeks in Derry getting to know the city and attending rehearsals for the Field Day Theatre Company production of his new play, "A Particle of Dread", which premiered at the Playhouse in December.

Shepard already had a connection with Derry dating back to the early 70s, but true to form, it was a strange one. The connection was revealed in an interview in 1972 at his London home when he explained to a Time Out journalist the origin of the large, black greyhound that lay dozing on the divan. "This here dawg," Sam drawled, "is a real champ. Comes from the north of Ireland. The Bogside."

The greyhound was called Keywall Spectre and Shepard took it racing at Hackney Wick where it regularly came in first. The dog starting showing up in the new experimental plays he was writing in London since his relocation from New York in 1971.

"Geography of a Horse Dreamer" stages the kidnapping by gangsters of Cody, a young man who has a gift for dreaming the winners of horse races. Tied to a bed in a London hotel room, he loses his power to dream of horses and begins to dream the winners of greyhound races instead.

The play opened at the Royal Court Theatre in February 1974. In the lead role of Cody was a young Irish actor beginning to make a name for himself – Stephen Rea. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and artistic partnership that would eventually bring Sam Shepard to Derry.

* * * * *

November 11, 2017

For over 40 years, colleges and universities throughout the English-speaking world have had strong connections to Sam Shepard in their drama departments. Several professors have written books or developed courses in the study of his many plays. And, in return, many of these institutions have honored our playwright. One such example is a university in my home state of Massachusetts. The Brandeis Creative Arts Award recognizes excellence in the arts and the lives and works of distinguished American artists. Recipients include Georgia O'Keeffe, Tennessee Williams, Aaron Copland, William Carlos Williams and yes, Sam Shepard, but only a select group were recognized twice. Sam received a Brandeis Creative Arts Award Citation in 1976 and a medal in 1984.

When he was recognized in 1976, he was unable to be in New York to receive the award in person, but he sent theater producer and director Wynn Handman to accept it on his behalf and submitted an acceptance speech.

* * * * *

I came across some new movie stills from WALKER PAYNE (2006), a 1950s drama set in a small town starring Jason Patric. Sam plays this shady, sharp-dressed hustler named Syrus and his performance got him some positive reviews. However, after premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, it was disappointing to see the film go straight to DVD. If you're a pet lover, you're probably going to find this a tough watch because it's about dog fighting. If you're up to it though, you can rent it at Amazon Video. Such a classic diner scene below. Bet he'll order some apple pie & coffee.

November 8, 2017

David Yaffe's "Restless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell" was released last month.  The legendary singer-songwriter discusses her cocaine addiction that began when she hooked up with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975. Of her affair with Sam during that tour, she says, "For me, on coke, I found him very attractive."

(Laughing) Well, Joni, most of us found him very attractive without the coke!

* * * * *

The first issue of American Theatre magazine came out in April 1984 and it featured an American icon - Sam Shepard in cowboy hat and flannel shirt, brow furrowed against the sun's glare, cigarette dangling. You can read the interview here.

November 5, 2017

Today would have been Sam Shepard's 74th birthday. It's easy to remember because it's just nine days before my own 74th celebration so I definitely feel a strong kinship. With all my health issues, I never expected I would outlive Sam but I suspected his oncoming death over the past year with the absence of any appearances and, most importantly, the frightening images of him in his last photo shoot.

I began this web site 12 years ago on his 62nd birthday in hopes that it would become a place for all things Shepard and it has obviously obtained that distinction. The Sam Shepard Web Site will continue to stay online, even if I should pass on as well. Of course, news will continue to diminish over the coming months but I consider it a worthwhile effort to maintain this archive of his life and career. The photo below is the one I keep here on my desk.

* * * * *

Here are a few excerpts from Bilge Ebiri of Village Voice magazine in an excellent article called "Drifters, Romantics and Madmen", which compares Sam's career to Dennis Hopper's. I was a major Hopper fan through the years and have seen almost every one of his films. "Blue Velvet" is a favorite. For the full Village Voice article, follow this link.

"It’s probably pure coincidence that BAM is presenting a week of Sam Shepard films right as the Metrograph screens five days of Dennis Hopper–directed titles... No two actors of their generation better expressed the modern iteration of the lonesome cowboy — that dying myth of the all-American wanderer. Their careers regularly threatened to intersect, but the two almost never worked together... They were, in some way, opposites — separate sides of the same coin...  They might have come to represent two competing, bygone visions of American manhood, but they also never lost their connection to the now, and never stopped experimenting."

* * * * *

The first review of Sam's upcoming book - "Spy of the First Person" by Kirkus Reviews:

A sharply observed, slender novel set in familiar Shepard (The One Inside, 2017, etc.) territory: a dusty, windblown West of limitless horizons and limited means of escape.

An image at the beginning of what is billed as the recently deceased Shepard’s final work of fiction—until the next one is found in a drawer, presumably—offers arresting portent: robins are singing, chirping away, not so much out of happiness with the world but, as the nameless narrator says, “I think mostly protecting nests" from all the "big bad birds" that are out to get their little blue eggs. The world is full of big bad birds, and one is the terror of a wasting neurological disease that provides the novel’s closing frame: two sons and an ailing father lagging behind the rest of their family as they make their way up the street in a little desert ville. "We made it and we hobbled up the stairs,” says the old man. “Or I hobbled. My sons didn’t hobble, I hobbled."

It’s exactly of a piece with "True West" and other early Shepard standards, and one can imagine Shepard himself playing the part of that old man in an understated, stoical film. In between, it’s all impression, small snapshots of odd people and odd moments ("People are unlocking their cars from a distance. Pushing buttons, zapping their cars, making the doors buzz and sing, making little 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' noises").

It’s easy to lose track of where one voice ends and another begins, where the young man leaves off and the old man picks up the story: explaining the title, the young narrator likens himself to an employee of a "cryptic detective agency," even as the old man, taking up the narration in turn, wonders why he’s being so closely watched when he can barely move. In the end, this is a story less of action than of mood, and that mood is overwhelmingly, achingly melancholic.

The story is modest, the poetry superb. A most worthy valediction.

November 2, 2017

Interview magazine (11/2/17) - excerpt of conversation between two filmmakers - Francis Ford Coppola and Greta Gerwig.

Greta: I once went through a major Sam Shepard phase, and I thought, "I’m completely in the wrong place, and I’m the wrong gender! And I’m also not a heavy drinker! And I need to somehow become a wild man and go out to the West and learn how to rope cattle!"

Coppola: I don’t think Sam Shepard knew how to rope cattle. [yes, he did!]

Greta: Well, he seemed like he did! I think the problem with growing up and idealizing self-destructive artists is that you only see the beauty they created rather than all the pain that went along with it. But then I read Joan Didion, and it was the first time I’d read something by an artist—a great artist—who was working in the same place I was from and writing about it, and it was the first inkling I had that maybe I didn’t need to be a different person in order to make something that was worth anything.

I heartily recommend Greta Gerwig's film, "Frances Ha" for originality and humor. And Joan Didion's book, "The Year of Magical Thinking." What a writer!

* * * * *

Fall 2004 Stage Preview - New York Magazine

Sam Shepard, the Silent Type by Ada Calhoun

[telephone interview with Sam]

You’re appearing in Caryl Churchill’s "A Number". What attracted you to her work?

Sam: Well, it’s kind of hard to say. I encountered the play in Australia, and I thought it was really fascinating, and I had no idea it would have a world premiere in New York.

Do you feel a kinship between your work and hers?

Sam: Not really. Only in the sense that I feel she’s also inspired by Beckett.

Can you talk about your character, Salter?

Sam: No, I can’t. Well, obviously he’s a complicated . . . I can’t do pocket reviews of this thing. This isn’t going to work.

Um, do you think the play has something to say about cloning?

Sam: I can’t describe the play. It’s too complex. To me, the cloning aspect is uninteresting. That’s not what it’s about. It has to do with identity.

Can you elaborate on that, what it says about identity?

Sam: I have a feeling this really isn’t going to work. I can’t capsulize it. I’d really rather not. I can’t capsulize this. Thanks anyway. [Click]

 Opening Night
with Dallas Roberts


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