David Fox, Philly Magazine:
In Red Orchid’s dazzlingly odd production, the great Sam
Shepard lives on. Two things you’ll know from the first minutes of SIMPATICO
- you are very much in a land that can only belong to Sam Shepard; and the
McCarter/Red Orchid production’s director, Dado, knows how to put this darkly
funny, tonally complex world on the stage.
All of this is great news for me, since Sam’s my jam. I’ve loved his work since
I discovered it as a student living in suburban Southern California, a vast
wasteland he understands as no one else does. Most of Simpatico is set there—and
to a native, at least, the litany of place names toll like a mournful bell. Here
is where America has gone to die. That’s certainly a familiar Shepard theme, and
much of Simpatico, written in 1994, recalls some of his earlier,
Shepard died a couple of months ago, but I can’t bring myself to accept it. Sam,
we will miss you dearly. But with plays and productions like this, you will
always be with us.
* * * * *
Liz Cook, The Pitch:
KCAT's (Kansas City Actors Theatre) A LIE OF THE MIND
is a fitting, wounding elegy for Sam Shepard. KCAT selected the three-act play
for its seaon before Shepard's death in July. But it's hard not to read this
production - sensuously acted and staged with languid indulgent images by
director Cinnamon Schultz - as a eulogy in performance form... Shepard isn't
KCAT’s production isn’t, either. But that, we sense, is the whole point.
Shepard’s feat was sketching American life in all of its bold and brash and
maximalist mess. The resulting play is something both innocent and violent, a
wounded animal rolling to expose its throat.
Performances continues through October 1 at Kansas City
Actors Theatre, City Stage at Union Station.
* * * * *
Camille Thoman's psycho-thriller
NEVER HERE had its European premiere at Oldenburg International Film
Festival last week. Vertical Entertainment is planning a U.S. release on October
20 with a pay TV launch to follow on Starz in early 2018. Mireille Enos plays
Miranda Fall and Sam has the role of Paul Stark, her art dealer and secret
lover. In his review, Stephen Holden of The Hollywood Reporter writes that Sam
is "reliably classy" and "still wolfishly handsome" at almost 70 years old.
FOR THE RECORD, SAM'S LAST FILM WAS "DUBIOUS BATTLE",
FILMED IN THE SPRING OF 2015. "NEVER HERE" WAS SCREENED TWO YEARS EARLIER IN THE
FALL OF 2013.
"I had tremendous luck at a very early age. I don't know how
that happens - I mean, the Pulitzer, I was like 36. It was one thing after
another, the accumulation of awards. It intimidated me. You go through that
conflict of wondering whether you're worth it. You start questioning the work.
You just have to battle those things in yourself." ...Sam
* * * * *
The Imago Theatre in Portland, Oregon will be staging
SAVAGE/LOVE in 2018. Ten performers will
explore provocative musings on love with drama, dance, humor, physical theatre
and song. There will be three performances at 7:30 pm on February 26, March 3
and March 10.
The play was written by Sam and Joseph Chaikin, and according
to most sources, it was first
performed in 1979 at the Public Theatre in New York. However, in a NY Times
article by Carol Lawson, dated October 31, 1979, she indicates that the play,
along with "Tongues", was performed that summer at the Eureka Theatre Festival
in California. It's not a conventional play as it has no narrative or
concrete plot, but instead it presents a feast of images, poetry, and sound that creates an
intimate and immersive experience. I want to share one of their poems, a very
The first moment
I saw you in the post office
You saw me
And I didn't know
The first moment
I saw you
I knew I could love you
If you could love me
You had sort of a flavor
The way you looked
And you looked at me
And I didn't know if you saw me
And there wasn't any question to ask
I was standing with some papers
I started shuffling the papers
But I didn't know what order to put them in
But I figured I wanted to do it in such a way
That it looked like I had some purpose
But I really just wanted to look at your eyes all the time
And you said
Look at me with your eyes
Look at me with your eyes
In that first moment
Your face burned into my dream
And right away I had this feeling
Maybe you're lost
Maybe I'm lost
And I thought
Maybe I'm just making this up
But your eyes
Looked like they were saying
Look at me more
I would shuffle the papers
Look at you
My breathing changed
Then I felt something dissolve
I felt there might be a danger
That anything could happen in the next moment
Maybe you would turn away from me
Or you could say
Let's go together
Fresno State University Theatre has some chutzpah tackling a
play like A PARTICLE OF DREAD (Oedipus
Variations). They have decided it will be their first show of the 2017-2018
season. This production, dedicated in Shepard's memory, will run from September
29 through October 7 in the Dennis and Cheryl Woods Theatre on campus.
"I am absolutely honored to be directing the final play of
one of America’s finest playwrights," said Director J. Daniel Herring. "Sam
Shepard’s legacy will live on in his unique style of storytelling, complex
characters and vibrant language."
The play fared better in Northern Ireland when it debuted at
the Derry Playhouse because it received poor reviews from New Yorkers when it
was staged a year later at the Signature Theatre in the fall of 2014. Bewitched,
bothered and bewildered comes to mind... Besides those two productions, I know
of no other. With so many other options in Shepard's archive of plays, I'm
surprised anyone would choose such a difficult and obscure play written at the end of his
life. It might be an exciting work to perform but shouldn't the audience be
taken into consideration?
"Carrie Fisher, Mary Tyler Moore, Jerry Lewis and other stars that died this
past year were honored during the 2017 Emmy Awards.
Viola Davis came out mid-ceremony to introduce the heartfelt tribute at the
Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday night. However, there were
noteworthy performers that didn't make the cut - such as Sam Shepard,
Charlie Murphy, and Dick Gregory."
"Emmys In Memoriam Segment Honors ‘Walking Dead’ Stuntman,
Omits Sam Shepard & Harry Dean Stanton
Among those who didn’t make the 'In Memoriam' cut were Sam
Shepard, most recently seen on television in Netflix’s 'Bloodline'".
"Every year, it seems that someone is missing from the list
of celebrities honored for their contributions to the industry. Among the
'forgotten' this year... ...Sam Shepard, who passed away in late July.
There was plenty of time to include the stars in the montage, which led the
audience to believe they were either forgotten or purposely left out."
* * * * *
It was noted that Jessica Lange attended the Emmy
ceremony last night looking very happy to be there before the cameras. You have
to wonder how many folks came up to her expressing their condolences. A bit
awkward, I'm sure, at a gala event. I would have asked her what she did with
Sam. Is he buried in Kentucky? Is he buried at all? So many questions
unanswered... When is she planning a memorial for the father of her children?
* * * * *
Illinois State University has announced that The
School of Theatre and Dance's upcoming show will be performed with a special
purpose. "A Lie of the Mind" will run September 27 through October
1 in the Center for the Performing Arts in honor of its playwright Sam Shepard,
Play director Lori Adams says, "I love him as a playwright so
much because he writes about families. There are always father and son
dysfunctions and violence and not everybody writes about that. There’s something
about the fabric of your immediate family and your lives and how they intertwine
and he is brilliant in [connecting] all of that."
Last night Patti Smith celebrated her late husband's
birthday in Central Park with their children and her band. She said, "Most of
these songs I wrote for Fred, with Fred or about Fred." And that was true for
"Pissing in a River" but she dedicated that song last night to Sam Shepard. I
wondered why she chose that song and possibly found this explanation.
This is an excerpt from Dave Thompson's book: "Dancing Barefoot: The Patti Smith
"The song is a declaration of togetherness, forever-ness,
that would develop from that initial encounter [with Fred], squeezed through
the prism of uncertainly, fear and insecurity that so often accompanies the
first months of a relationship... If a part of Patti's unconscious mind
looked back at her time with Sam and wondered whether she was stepping back
into that same sad circus, nobody would have been surprised. Which is
perhaps why, in "Pissing in a River", she crafted lyrics that are a prayer
to insecurity in its most painful guise."
My bowels are empty, excreting your soul
What more can I give you? Baby I don't know
What more can I give you to make this thing grow?
Don't turn your back now, I'm talking to you
UK's Eye for Film has reported a film tribute called "True
West: Sam Shepard on Film" in November at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
(BAM). The 11-film tribute, sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, runs from
November 3 through November 9 at the Academy's Rose Cinemas.
The following films will be shown:
Don't Come Knocking
The Right Stuff
Days of Heaven
Fool for Love
Me and My Brother
Tongues video performed by Joseph Chaikin
* * * * *
Mark Schumann, The Redding Pilot:
"I will never forget
when I first saw Sam Shepard’s play Buried Child on stage. The year was
1979, the evening was cold, the small theater in the West Village was drafty,
and the stage was well heated. Using perfectly crafted words, this young
playwright captured the essence of the anger people feel when institutions let
them down. And he won the Pulitzer Prize."
"Over the next 38 years, in addition to writing more plays, Shepard appeared in
more than 60 movie roles on screen and television. But he rarely played the
lead. Instead he was that reliable supporting player who adds texture and
meaning to any story. In each Shepard performance, his eyes reach through the
screen to make him impossible to forget, no matter how brief the role."
Here's a scene from The Pelican Brief with actor John
Heard, who passed away just six days before Sam. I love their bantering back and
forth. Great dialogue.
* * * * *
Rebecca Weaver, Silver Leaf Films:
"In 2006 I had a good amount of people telling me that, yeah,
being a writer and an actor sounds great, but you really won’t be able to do
either one very well if you’re doing both. You have to choose. And here was Sam
Shepard, a master of both forms. And I do mean a master actor. He’s very
possibly my favorite. Because you don’t see any seams. Think about the movies
you’ve seen him in: He just seems like a guy hanging out with a bunch of actors
around him. He seems like part of the scenery, like he was always there. He was
jaw droppingly naturalistic. We don’t appreciate the talent and the incredible
relaxation in a person it takes to just be there, to just hang out after
'action.' And he had it. It can’t be taught. Refined certainly, but not taught,
I don’t think."
* * * * *
David Sims, The
"Shepard was a consistent presence in Hollywood, lending gravitas, his rugged
looks, and a wonderful, gravelly voice to countless roles, some of them
perfunctory (he played a lot of military men) and others delightfully
unconventional. In another era, he might have been Gary Cooper reincarnated, a
steely symbol of American grit, but Shepard could never resist the darker sides
of those myths, fleshing them out in the many plays, films, and novels he wrote
over the years."
Military man? Yup, here he is in
Stealth, Black Hawk Down,
Robert W. Butler, Kansas City Star:
"For most of us a night at the theater means being
entertained and, perhaps, uplifted. A Sam Shepard play means subjecting
yourself to the unknown, the dangerous. His is an outlaw’s voice, one that
evoked powerful, unconventional and even frightening emotions. Watching a
Sam Shepard play is like grabbing a rattlesnake by the tail and twisting and
jerking for the next two hours to stay clear of its fangs... Wait a
minute . . . Sam Shepard wrote plays? Well, yes. Long before his rugged good
looks made him a popular movie actor, Shepard was negotiating the outer
limits of the American theater. Most of us know him for the films."
If you're looking for a Sam Shepard play in Kansas City,
check out the H&R Block City Stage Theater in Union Station. "A
Lie of the Mind" will play September 13 through October 1.
Written in the mid-80s, this dark and disturbing drama was
written about how two families deal with domestic abuse. According to the
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will
experience domestic violence in her lifetime and more than 1.3 million women are
assaulted by an intimate partner each year. Did Sam write this play to raise
awareness of this issue as a service to the community? Of course not. It
was far too raw and personal. Interesting that at one time, his daughter Hannah
worked for a domestic violence organization.
Cinnamon Schultz, who's directing the Kansas City
production, believes that this is Shepard’s most personal play, the one that
most closely reflects his own background.
She comments, "In his plays he often wrote about alcoholic fathers. He had one.
And Shepard admitted that he’d had troubles with alcohol. The character of Jake
is loosely based on that. Shepard was never known to abuse women, but a lot of
Jake’s character and obsessions reflect the man who wrote him."
* * * * *
Whether it was meant to be a tribute or not, author John
Winters points out that during the end credits of Episode 10, Season 3 of
Netflix's BLOODLINE, you can hear Sam
strumming on his ukelele singing "You are My Sunshine." It appears to be an
audio takeout from Season 1 when Sam performed during a party.
From Monica Castillo, NY Times:
THREE REASONS TO WATCH "DAYS OF HEAVEN"
The Magic-Hour Cinematography:
Capturing the Magic Hour, the narrow sliver of time just around sunrise and
sunset, is a difficult task for filmmakers. They’re limited in how much time
they can film before the light becomes too bright or too dark. When they
succeed, as Malick and the cinematographer Nestor Almendros do here, the effect
is impressionistic: Characters appear softer in the faded light; scenes are
warmer from the reddish tone sun’s rays; objects or extras can be backlit
against the purple and pastel skies to enhance the depths of the colorful
The Shaggy Narration:
Linda’s raspy voice-over is our guide to this faraway time and place. Her words
feel homespun and unpretentious as she comments, philosophizes and
free-associates. She talks like a street urchin, full of slang and rambling
observations — an innocent in the tradition of Huck Finn, who’s open and
imaginative but just world-weary enough to sense when something doesn’t add up.
The Reserved Performances:
There are no giant declarations of love or lengthy fight scenes in "Days of
Heaven". Even murder in this movie is elliptical and unsentimental. Bill and
Abby’s true feelings for each other are kept hidden from onlookers, including
Linda, who narrates the film. Although she knows about their plan to lure the
farmer into marrying Abby, Linda doesn’t quite understand their unspoken
frustrations as their plot proceeds. She sympathizes with the sickly farmer,
whose looks of deep longing are some of the most devastating in movie history.
There’s suspicion, doubt and a sense of betrayal behind the farmer’s eyes as he
watches Bill and Abby get closer than a brother and sister ought to be. Shepard,
who died in July at 73, gives a largely silent performance, but it’s a
profoundly moving one.
* * * * *
Henry Vermillion, Atensionsanmiguel.org:
"When I first saw Sam Shepard's play True West, I felt that this
writer was a kindred soul; obviously, he was from the Southwest, as I was. I was
surprised to learn that, in fect, he was born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. His
feeling for the empty spaces and the quirky people of the West and the heartland
- railroad men riding cowcatchers, men shooting tin cans with 22s, stoic or
raging alcoholics, Mexican cowboys, strong women - came from his early days of
growing up. He put these people into plays and stories: 'Moving, drolly funny,
spare, cleanly poetic, and always surprising,' as one critic wrote."
* * * * *
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:
"He felt much more comfortable crawling into the skin of lived-in characters,
such as the army commander in Black Hawk Down,
the outlaw in The Assassination of Jesse James
by the Coward Robert Ford, the grizzled father figure in
Mud. They were men who'd also be at home in a Shepard play.
Still, the Shepard screen performance that resonates most with me is his haunted
cowboy in Robert Altman's 1985 film version of
Fool for Love, acting for the first time
in a film he wrote and making it clear that "there's not a movie in this town
that can match the story I can tell.'"
From the Santa Fe Reporter:
Jeremy Sabloff, president of the Santa Fe Institute from 2009 to 2015, says
Shepard was a perfect fit as a Miller Scholar, a position created to welcome
creative types onto Cowan Campus for "both their complementary and orthogonal
At the institute, Shepard talked to his colleagues about writing and acting. "He
was so low-key," Sabloff says. "Given the common perception of famous actors and
writers, Sam was not full of himself."
Further considering Shepard’s personality, Sabloff recalls watching
Blackthorn in 2011, in which Shepard played a
renamed version of American train robber Butch Cassidy. "He’s on this horse and
he doesn’t say a lot, but you get this great force of determination," Sabloff
says. "It captured the essence of Sam."
* * * * *
There's a wonderful 1968 video clip from "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" in
which Sam plays drums with the Holy Modal Rounders. The band includes
Peter Stampfel, Steve Weber, Richard Tyler and John Wesley Annis. They're
introduced by Ruth Buzzi, who cavorts around them as they play, "Right String
But the Wrong Yo Yo". The video is poor quality but it's still a fun watch
* * * * *
From Marin Independent Journal:
Shepard moved to Mill Valley in 1974 and lived there till about 1982. Former
Tamalpais High School drama teacher Michele Swanson remembered how he generously
donated his time, working with students at playwriting workshops and festivals
for several years.
"He was very gracious about working with young writers," she said. "He wasn’t
interested in the trappings of a festival, but the conversation between him and
a group of writers was always sincere. He loved to talk about writing, the
process, the words. And he was the same way about the stage. It was the energy
and excitement that he loved. And he was completely mysterious as well."
In the mid to late '70s, Shepard’s reputation in Marin was as a reclusive figure
who scrupulously avoided doing interviews or publicity. Marin Independent
Journal columnist Beth Ashley once described him as "a phantom presence on the
streets of Mill Valley."
Griefing over a celebrity's death:
"The complex mechanisms by which we understand and are affected by the deaths of
public figures will likely continue to develop and intensify as digital
proximity cultivates increased feelings of connection and identification with
beloved celebrities" ...Luke Ottenhof, Vice.com
* * * * *
The Castro Theatre in San Francisco will present a
double feature with two of Sam's films on Tuesday, September 12. FOOL FOR
LOVE will be shown at 7:00 and PARIS, TEXAS at 9:00.
* * * * *
In a 2016 New York Times Q&A, Sam was asked if he felt he had
achieved something substantial in his career.
"Yes and no. If you include the short stories and all the
other books and you mash them up with some plays and stuff, then, yes, I've come
at least close to what I'm shooting for. In one individual piece, I'd say no.
There are certainly some plays I like better than others, but none that measure
* * * * *
This is an excerpt from a story written about five years ago
by blogger Elizabeth May and it's posted here to bring a smile to your
day. It's called "Standoff with Sam Shepard at Ten Thousand Waves".
On a recent trip to Santa Fe, I took my mother to Ten Thousand Waves, a
gorgeous, serene Japanese spa located on Hyde Park road. I first read about the
spa when I was a college student... So, when twenty years later I finally
treated myself to a soak and massage at Ten Thousand Waves, the first person I
saw was Sam Shepard. Swaggering out of the men’s room, his right-eye-squint so
characteristic his eye was practically shut, he stood like a cowboy in a
Buddhist temple... Standing before me, still in his tracks, as the employee was
trying to orient us to the spa, Mr. Shepard gave me a look, with his good eye,
like a bandit scrutinizing his victim before drawing his gun. A look that made
me feel like I’d robbed the train and gotten away with it. Like I was Jane Fonda
in Cat Ballou.
Ruffling his hand through his spiky gray hair, he walked away and the moment was
gone with the wind.
Thank goodness for hindsight and blogs because later of course, I wished I’d
been cleverer. Wished I’d said something as smart and witty as the dialogue in
his fiction. Something like, "You’re not leaving so soon are you? We just got
here." Or flattery along the lines of how inspiring and influential his plays,
short stories and films have been to me, but how corny and cliché. Maybe a
simple, "Konichiwa." Or I could have been gutsy, given him a wink, and lassoed
him with, "Whadaya say we take a Xanax and go shoot some starlings?"
Chicago's acclaimed A Red Orchid Theatre is visiting New
Jersey and bringing its well-received production of Sam Shepard's SIMPATICO
with it. The play tells the tale of the underworld of thoroughbred racing,
complete with secrets and blackmail.
The show will run from September 8 to October 15 at McCarter
Theatre in Princeton and includes much of the production's original cast and
crew, including 2017 Oscar nominee Michael Shannon. It is directed by A Red
"It is a stunning personal loss to all of us who knew him and a devastating loss
for the theater that the great Sam Shepard has died," said Emily Mann,
McCarter's artistic director. "One of the most important playwrights of his
generation, Sam Shepard shaped the American theater from the moment his plays
appeared on our stages — and in so many theaters across the globe — in the late
1960s. We dedicate our opening play of the season, Sam’s 'Simpatico' featuring A
Red Orchid Theatre, to his memory. In this way, he lives on."
* * * *
The Off-Off-Broadway theatre La MaMa has
announced that they will pay tribute to our prolific playwright on Saturday,
La MaMa will celebrate Shepard’s life and career with live
and video tributes, and the presentation of rare footage and photos in the Ellen
Stewart Theatre. The event will kick off at 3 pm.
"Sam Shepard and Ellen Stewart pioneered a new era of art-making that changed
theatre forever," commented Mia Yoo, La MaMa’s current artistic director, in a
press statement. "[He] has a special place at La MaMa. He helped shape La MaMa’s
legacy. Our founder Stewart gave him free rein to fully explore his potential."
La MaMa will also present readings of Shepard’s early plays
in January 2018 in The Ellen Stewart Theatre. Slated to direct are Estelle
Parsons, Neil LaBute, Scott Wittman, and Joel Zwick. For more information on the
theatre’s upcoming programming, visit LaMaMa.org.
Back in 2011 when he was about to become the first recipient
of La MaMa's new Annual Ellen Stewart Award, he fondly recalled the founder of
the East Village theater. He said, "Ellen was a generous woman in every respect.
She was a New Orleans Creole, so distinctly herself in every way, the way she
spoke, the way she dressed. She would just let people come and stay at the old
LaMaMa down on Second Avenue... Ellen was so great. I could bring her any old
thing I'd written on the back of an envelope and she'd say 'Let's do it
Baby!'... By tremendous luck, I just happened to end up in the right place."
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