April 18, 2018
New York's Signature Theatre has announced its 2018-19
season and among its six works will be "Curse of the
Starving Class", directed by Terry Kinney. Living a stagnant, unhappy
existence in rural California, the struggling Tate family is desperate for
change, but every family member has a different way of trying to improve their
station in life. The play will run at The Irene Diamond Stage next year
from April 23 to June 2, 2019. Sam was Signature's Playwright-in-Residence
during the 1996-97 season when they first produced the play. Signature is
honoring his legacy with this revival.
April 16, 2018
Theatre critic Rick Levin (Eugene Weekly):
Between my two
favorite American playwrights, Tennessee Williams and Sam Shepard, I find
Shepard to be, inexplicably, the more familiar but less accessible of the two.
For all the remarkable similarities found in their themes — family dysfunction,
alcoholism, killer secrets, and the crass materialism and spiritual bankruptcy
of the American dream — Williams is far and away the more classical artist,
irreducibly genteel no matter how grotesque his subject matter. His work
traffics in grand archetypes, whereas Shepard’s characters seem blurry and
emaciated, like a fading Kodachrome in someone else’s family album.
This takes away nothing from Shepard, a master of restraint who tackled his
chosen territory with a muted desperation and broiling anger that sometimes
border on poetic incoherence. The mumble and the shrug are Shepard’s true
domain. Because of this, ironically, he is the funnier of the two writers, and
his tragedies are more unbearable.
* * * * *
Hey, here's our Marlboro man!
April 14, 2018
The Sam Shepard Papers are split between the Wittliff
collections at the Texas State University and the Harry Ransom Center at
the University of Texas at Austin.
The Ransom collection is filled with drafts and revisions of many of Sam's
plays, stories, poems, and other works. Especially interesting is a series of
notebooks in which he recorded thoughts and ideas related to his plays, acting
roles, songs, and travels.
In his notebooks, you may find a list of trees:
cottonwood, dogwood, apricot, willow, polar, locust, crab apple, silver maple.
Or a list of lilies -
Citronella, Scarlet Emperor, Thunderbolt, Golden Sunburst, Silver Stain.
Or guitar chords with Spanish lyrics. Or passages of prose. Or unattributed
quotes from overheard conversations. In the back of one notebook is a
photocopied review of his 1983 play, "Fool for Love" that's folded up with an
article about fly-fishing.
Often the notebook covers are torn and taped together. Many
are the classic A6 with cream-colored paper and pale blue lines, small enough to
fit into a pocket. One is spiral-bound with a faux snakeskin jacket. Several
have the same earth red cover and thick black spine.
Inside the notebooks stage sets are sketched out next to maps
of land divided into vegetable patches. Scraps of prose and notes about horse
keeping are recorded in the same loose script. Phone numbers for Wim Wenders on
location and Susan Sontag's NY address appear between other lists: things to buy
for a party, actors to cast in a movie or Christmas gifts for his family.
For a complete list of the Sam Shepard Papers at the Harry
visit this link.
Sam writing on a June day in 2006 at a West Village cafe -
April 5, 2018
From the Salida, CO Regional Library - a few comments on "Spy
of the First Person":
"This little book is classified as fiction, but it has a
taste of autobiography about it. Sam Shepard wrote it, later dictated it to
family members, as the disease that eventually took his life, took over. One of
the book’s central characters, an old man on a porch, is weakened and ill, but
alert. He could be taken as a reflection of Sam himself.
And this character takes on shades of another of the book’s characters, so much
so that it’s difficult to ascertain who’s who. But maybe that’s the point.
At times it seems like the old man is being observed by himself; sort of
an out of body experience by himself. The structure of the sentences have a hint
of Gertrude Stein, short and repetitive. And it’s all in Sam’s slow, easy voice.
A reconciling of becoming older and remembering the past."
April 2, 2018
Clerkenwell Actors Studio of London has announced an event
called "Encounters with Sam Shepard", directed by Miriam Lucia. Staged at
the Hen & Chickens Theatre will be scenes and monologues from "True West,
"Action", "Cowboy Mouth" and more. Performances will be at 7:45 pm on May 9, 10
& 11, 2018.
* * * * *
Like father, like daughter? Unbeknownst to me, Hannah Jane
Shepard (often H.J. Shepard) is in print! She is published in the 2015
edition of "Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories from around the
World". You can read her short story called "Please Hold Me the Forgotten Way"
at this link.
Back in 2013 the History Department at Fordham University
recognized excellence among their graduate students by awarding a prize for the
best paper written in a research seminar. The best paper for 2013 was award
jointly to Hannah and another student. Her paper was called "Vanished in Plain
Sight: Scots-Irish Presbyterians in Wisconsin, 1830-1890".
Let's hope we see more from this very literate woman. Here's
a recent photo of her taken in late February in NYC.
March 29, 2018
"Fools for Love: a Dramatic and Musical Tribute to Sam
Shepard" will take place at 8 p.m. on April 7 at The Rock House in
Glenview, Illinois. It is also a fundraiser for the Les Turner ALS
Foundation, the disease that claimed Sam's life. The show is in three
parts beginning with reading an excerpt from one of his final works. A musical
performance will follow with songs that Sam's sister, Sandy Rogers, wrote for
Robert Altman's film version of "Fool for Love." Following the music, a
shortened, adapted version of the play "Fool For Love" will be performed.
* * * * *
"I feel like I've never had a home, you know? I feel
related to the country, to this country, and yet I don't know exactly where
I fit in... There's always this kind of nostalgia for a place, a place where
you can reckon with yourself."
March 23, 2018
William Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet" may be the epitome
of the story of star-crossed lovers, but Sam Shepard certainly gave the bard a
run for his money with his 1983 play "Fool for
Love." In honor of his memory, Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival
will be putting on a production of his Pulitzer Prize-nominated play. While the
company’s mission is to faithfully portray Shakespeare’s works, it also includes
"other actor-driven plays."
"It still seems natural to do an American classic as our first departure and
especially Sam Shepard because so much of his writing is based in the
Southwest," said Dawn Tucker, executive director of FlagShakes. She continues,
"I read that when he wrote the first scene he just loved the characters so much
that he didn't want it to end, he just wanted it to go on and on."
Performances of "Fool for Love" will be the last two weekends
of March. The Momentum Aerial Arts Studio will host the production Friday and
Saturday, March 23 and 24, before it moves to La Posada Hotel in Winslow the
following weekend, March 30 and 31.
March 20, 2018
Roundabout Theatre Company has announced that Ethan Hawke and
Paul Dano are teaming up for a new Broadway production of "True
West". The play will be directed by James Macdonald with previews
beginning on December 27 ahead of an official opening on January 24, 2019 at the
American Airline Theatre in New York. Additional cast and creative team members
will be announced at a later date. Hawke was a longtime collaborator and friend
of Sam's and gave the following tribute last summer:
For my generation, there’s a bit of hero worship that
went along with Sam. He was someone who could act and direct and write at
such a high level. He’s a poet of the first order. I first saw a production
of True West when I was 14. That production did for my generation
what Brando and Streetcar had done for a generation earlier. It was
the same time he was in The Right Stuff. Playing Chuck Yeager is one
of the coolest performances this side of Rebel Without a Cause. The
first time I met him I was 24. I was at a urinal during intermission of the
first read-through of Buried Child in Chicago. I later told
[film director] Richard Linklater, and he said, “Well, you’re pissing in the
tall grass with the big dogs now!”
What a lot of young people get wrong about Sam is that he wasn’t just cool.
When you worked with him, he was a very serious person. He’d come to
rehearsal and talk about Greek myths and weird obscure playwrights. I once
went into a bookstore and found him in the Spanish section, poring over how
to learn Spanish in six weeks or less. He was disarmingly humble and wildly
self-serious. He could walk that razor’s edge.
Here’s one of my favorite stories: I was living at the Chelsea Hotel, and I
had to wake up at dawn to walk my puppy. Outside was Sam Shepard reading all
the famous artist plaques on the wall. We’d worked together a bunch already,
and I invited him in for coffee. We were heading to the elevator, and Sam
was telling me about how he used to live there and wrote with Patti Smith
there, when we run into the owner of the Chelsea — Stanley Bard, this
old-school New Yorker. Sam said hi and then, 'What do you gotta do to get a
plaque on the wall? I did some good writing here!' And Stanley said, 'Well,
unfortunately, Mr. Shepard, you have to die.' And Sam went, 'I see Arthur
Miller’s got one out there, and he’s not dead.' And Stanley went, 'Well, Mr.
Shepard, I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you you’re no Arthur Miller.'
Sam burst out laughing so hard.
In the years I knew him, he could be many different people. He was a
complicated person. He was wise, and I think he got wise fighting a lot of
things about himself. He was a deeply curious person, always learning,
always staying interested. He was writing beautifully at the highest level
even at the end. I wish he hadn’t been sick, and I really wish we could have
worked together again. It was always an honor.
March 12, 2018
Several years ago Sam and actor Scott Glenn teamed up for a
reading of "Ages of the Moon" at the Egyptian
Theatre in Boise, Idaho. You may remember that the pair starred together in "The
Right Stuff". The play is about a couple of dudes sitting on a front porch
in the country, waiting to witness an eclipse of the moon. Ames and Byron are
old friends who, accompanied by whiskey, spend a night reminiscing, bickering
and growing hostile.
Here are several photos from the July 28, 2011 event:
* * * * *
As a tribute to Sam, the University of Tulsa will
present two of his plays at the Chapman Theatre from April 12 to April 15.
Directed by senior students, "Action" and "Fool for Love" will be staged.
March 2, 2018
In the early 90s, Carol Rosen interviewed Sam for her book, "Sam
Shepard: A Poetic Rodeo", which became part of the Modern Dramatists Series.
In this excerpt, Sam discusses directing:
When I started, with the first play I ever directed in
London, I was terrified of the situation because I'd never done it before.
So I immediately conferred with two people who I thought were the best
directors in the world. One was Peter Brook and the other was Joe [Chaikin].
I sort of talked to them at length about the process and all that kind of
stuff. When I went in, I found myself sort of trying to imitate certain
things from their points of view, but discovered that it was futile, that
you have to deal with the actors that you've got right in front of you and
find out what the experience is like: directing. You can't use a formula to
approach it, so I never developed a formula for it. I like actors who are
incredibly courageous and enthusiastic. I think Malkovich is a good example:
extremely intelligent, fearless, and enthusiastic. Just does not give a shit
about how this fits into somebody else's idea of what it should be, just
goes for ideas that are completely off the wall. They may be wrong but he'll
go for them.
At the time of Sam's death, Malkovich described him as "very
cool and authentic" with "great simplicity on screen."
* * * * *
Human Sacrifice Theatre of Melbourne, Australia, has
announced an event called "I Lost Track of Time" - A celebration of the
writings of Sam Shepard. There will be three performances between March 25 - 27.
The extracts presented in this unique entertainment include his early Off-Off
Broadway period when the plays were often performed against an aural background
of hard rock music, the award winning main stage family dramas, personal
observations and movie scripts. All accompanied by a live original music score
which pulses with the rhythms of Sam Shepard’s writing. A man who walked the
line between movie star and rebel, a punk cowboy "who never ceased to grow, to
explore, to confront, and to listen to new music."
February 25, 2018
A few excerpts from The Wrap, July 31, 2017:
"It’s something of a show-business truism that writers sink
into the background, shoveling the coal below deck while the glamorous actors
and charismatic directors do their work in a more public setting. Part of what
makes Sam Shepard’s career so fascinating was his apparent ease on both sides of
the camera... but Shepard wasn’t merely a strong character actor; he was sexy
and charismatic in a way that made him a pin-up for people who read the New York
Review of Books... Playwrights don’t generally become household names
outside of Broadway circles, but Shepard was becoming well known to moviegoers
with striking acting turns in films."
"Naturally, the ever-snotty Spy magazine couldn’t resist
taking a dig at Shepard’s two branches of fame; a writer there once sniffed that
Shepard thought he was Gary Cooper crossed with Eugene O’Neill when he was
really a mix of Randolph Scott and Zane Grey."
"The writing slowed down in the last several decades of his life, but the acting
roles continued, with Shepard excelling both in leads and supporting
performances. Spy’s opinion notwithstanding, there was something very Gary
Cooper-ish about Shepard’s handsome, rugged features and his ability to convey a
great deal of emotion with a minimum of dialogue."
"He leaves behind a rich legacy of acting work. If you’re in the mood for some
deeper cuts, check out Volker Schlöndorff’s 1991 'Voyager'
or the Kathy Bates-directed 'Dash and Lilly'".
"Whether crafting his own words or performing those written by others, he was an
extraordinary American artist."
* * * * *
Most fans recognize Sam as a movie star, some as a
playwright, but fans of underground music know him as the drummer for seminal
New York avant-garde folk band the Holy Modal Rounders. The band is best
known for its song, "If You Want to be a Bird", which plays during the classic
scene in "Easy Rider" in which Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson
roar down the highway on their motorcycles. That's Sam playing drums as Rounders
founders Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber whoop and yowl. You can view that scene
One of my favorite moments in the film is when Nicholson
takes a swig of Jim Beam and then flaps one arm like a chicken and exclaims in
his traditional drunken chant "Neh! Neh! Neh!" During his long career, he made
famous a few other lines as well - "Heeeere's Johnny!", "You can't handle the
truth!", and "Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?" What a career!
* * * * *
An unusual photograph showing Sam in his younger days:
February 23, 2018
Men's Journal, August 2017:
"It only takes a glance to see that Shepard packed several
lifetimes into one, all of them cloaked in the mystery that comes with tight-lippedness
and a penchant in his stories for mixing fiction with autobiographical detail
(or the other way around). He liked the road. He knew the highways of the West
as well as a long-haul trucker, and his stop-off points were no less obscure. If
he wanted an experience, it appears he went and got it. The weird America was in
* * * * *
Hub Theatre Company of Boston will kick off its highly
anticipated sixth season with "True West", directed by Daniel Bourque. The
show runs Friday, April 13 through Saturday, April 28, 2018 at First Church
Boston, 66 Marlborough Street in Boston’s Back Bay. Performances are Thursdays
at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 5 pm. All performances
are “Pay-What-You-Can.” Donations of non-perishable food items will be collected
at each performance for local charities.
February 20, 2018
Released by Audible.com, the new edition of Tom
Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" is narrated by Dennis Quaid, who played
astronaut Gordon Cooper in the 1983 film adaptation, directed by Philip Kaufman.
The unabridged audiobook was released on February 6th and is 15 hours and 46
Quaid said he loved the spark of Wolfe's prose style, the chance to relive
the making of the film and the chance to play, at least in one medium, all of
the characters. He admitted it was his favorite film in his career. [What's your
favorite Quaid film? For me, it's a toss-up between "Great Balls of Fire" and
"The Big Easy".]
In his Oscar-nominated role as Chuck Yeager, Sam said, "I'm
not a Method actor. I just go for it. I could have cared less about the sound
barrier. I was trying to capture something about the man. Something about his
independence, something about his arrogance, something about his humility and
his courage... I asked Chuck what it was like to be an ace pilot, and he said,
'Well, by the time I was 12 years old, I'd already killed 26 black bears.' He
had no fear."
Have you ever wondered why Sam didn't do the narration in the
film? According to the director, Levon Helm had that voice that Tom Wolfe
ascribed to Chuck Yeager, that sort of West Virginia drawl that Sam didn't have
and that's why Levon took on the narration. The Levon Helm Memorial Boulevard is
just a mile from my home so I see his name often.
I love watching the camaraderie between the two of them with
Sam's line - "Hey Ridley, got any Beeman's?"
February 18, 2018
Here's a book review from playwright/journalist Jonathan
Leaf: "Advertised as a novel, 'Spy of the First Person' has received
praise in publications whose critics should know better. In fact, one might well
place 'novel' in quotation marks. Fewer than 20,000 words in length, it’s far
too disjointed to fit the common meaning of the word."
[I believe that novella would have been a more apt
"It reads more like a rambling exercise in prose-poetry
composed by a 14-year-old who just discovered the beatniks. Permit me to quote a
I remember sometimes you would start whole stories.
Sometimes paragraphs. Sometimes sentences with the word 'sometimes.' Do you
remember how you did that? I thought it was a good way to start.
'Sometimes.' In other words not always but sometimes. In other words
sometimes not always. Sometimes this or that. Sometimes birds. Why birds,
you would say. Why birds? Sometimes. Why color? Sometimes. Why . . . wind?
Dogs. Sometimes it made complete sense to me. It made complete sense."
"The novel’s story, such as it can be made out, concerns a
crippled and dying old man. This is plainly based on Shepard himself, a victim
of Lou Gehrig’s disease who was relegated to a wheelchair in his last days.
Shepard has even given this character children with the same names as those of
his own. A second figure is an observer tailing the old man. It is not clear why
this stalker is engaged in this task or why it is of any significance, but
interlarded with it are references to Pancho Villa and a number of garages and
single-family homes in California and New Mexico. Much of it reads like
'automatic writing': words randomly assembled. This inability to construct a
logical tale has been a Shepard characteristic."
* * * * *
Ironweed Productions of Santa Fe has announced an
evening of Shepard readings on Sunday, July 29th, marking the anniversary of his
This will be a free event from 7 to 10 pm at El Museo Cultural where "True West"
was staged in 2006. The evening will include readings from "Fool for Love",
"True West" and "Buried Child", as well as selected pieces from "Motel
Chronicles", "Cruising Paradise", "Great Dream of Heaven", "Day Out of Days" and
his final book "Spy of the First Person". Following the readings there will be a
reception in the gallery space.
February 13, 2018
In 1962, a teenaged Mt. San Antonio College student named
Steve Rogers wrote a 15-minute play entitled THE MILDEW. That play was
published in the campus literary magazine MoSAiC. The author of the play left
the school at the end of that year and changed his name to Sam Shepard. Now, 56
years later, that play will have its first production. It was be staged with two
other plays at Mt. SAC at 8 p.m. for three nights - February 13-15.
It's a short script described as a stark, morbid comedy that
explores many of the same themes Sam would become famous for. A proper young man
tries to introduce the audience to his ideal life and neighborhood, only to have
his vision of his life destroyed by strangers who pass by.
According to Sam's biographer John J. Winters, the play shows
"a remarkable eagerness to experiment and a transgressive sense of humor."
However, he continues, "The Mildew ultimately lacks the things that set
Shepard's later work apart. While it's strange and at times humorous, it lacks
the sustained tension and the knowing irony of his produced work, as well as the
dark humor and linguistic flights."
February 11, 2018
Theatre of San Francisco has announced that the theatre's 2018 gala
fundraiser, Magic Masquerade, will be held at the Julia Morgan Ballroom on
Friday, March 9, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. The gala will honor Sam by bestowing
the inaugural Sam Shepard Legacy Award to longtime Magic supporters John
Marx and Toni Rembe Rock. The evening will also include a Sam Shepard Tribute
Performance. The theatre statement reads, "Almost 50 years ago Sam Shepard
embarked on a journey with Magic Theatre - a journey that would include the
creation and premiere of 7 of his most enduring works. Magic Theatre provided
him with an artistic home to explore, create and thrive during these formative
years. The art he created allowed audiences to viscerally explore the essential
elements of humanity and dared audiences to feel beyond themselves. Sam
challenged the status quo and forged the way for countless other playwrights to
dream and discover their own voices. Magic Theatre has continued to be the
artistic safe-haven for the writer's vision to flourish. This accomplishment has
only been made possible by visionary cultural stakeholders, like John Marx and
Tony Rembe Rock, who were galvanized by Sam's unprecedented impact on the
February 5, 2018
In the winter of 2011, production began on the film
SAVANNAH, in which Sam played actress Jaimie
Alexander's father. When he died last summer, Jaimie wrote this kind tribute and
posted it online along with some photos.
Dear Sam, you were the best movie Dad a girl could ask for. A
good friend and an incredible teacher. I’ll never forget our long conversations
over multiple glasses of wine while filming in Savannah, your incredible
kindness, all the books you gave to me, that yellow pocket knife you carried and
then gave to me (I carry it still today), that crazy good food we ate at The
Shed in Santa Fe, but most of all…your goofy sense of humor. You were such a
smart ass! I feel incredible sadness today…but also joy at the thought of you.
I'm so grateful our paths crossed. I’ll carry love and admiration for you
always. Rest In Peace.
* * * * *
Here are more Shepard drawings. Love the middle one!
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