June 22, 2010
Spanish media has given us more info
on BLACKTHORN as well as another photo,
this time of the lone cowboy on horseback. In a recent interview with
screenwriter, Miguel Barros stated
that his story has nothing to do with the mythical "Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid." The duo supposedly ended their days in Bolivia in November 1908
during a shootout with the Bolivian army. These two thieves serve as inspiration
for Barros but he only took the Cassidy character and created a story in which
the outlaw survives this assault. The script was written in two to three weeks
in record time. The starting point is that Butch Cassidy is still alive under
the name of James Blackthorn, and twenty years after his supposed death, he is
dedicated to raising horses in a small village in Bolivia. Barros showed the
script to Mateo Gil, who quickly fell for the project.
One of the things that Gil and Barros were clear on was that
the lead actor had to be an American. The first name that came up was Nick
Nolte's. Initial contact was good but due to problems with intermediaries, they
offered the role to another mythical figure - Sam Shepard. When our playwright
received the script, he was hooked. Barros admits it was an honor to have
another writer like something you've written. Sam accepted all the conditions
and within 15 days of his "yes", Gil was already with him in NY reviewing the
Both Gil and Barros made several trips to Bolivia to pick the locations and
filming began in April and lasted nine weeks. Barros - "It was hard work for
everyone because we were at an average altitude of 3,000 or 4,000 meters with
the logical problems of altitude sickness and variable climatic conditions, from
the tropical sun to freezing cold. But, at the same time, it was fun."
Barros speaks wonders of the cast and praises Sam. "It was
great and wonderful. He's demanding, but he is not a prima donna. He's a warm
person, generous and sympathetic." Details of the film are limited but Barros
says, "I wanted to write a western and it is a simple story of characters. The
protagonist recovers a spirit believed to be lost and wants to return to his
home in Utah to die there and shares that road with a Spanish engineer."
Digging up old photos...
Here's a trio from the 2007 Venice Film Festival, which
screened "The Assassination of Jesse James...". I wish he'd take those darn
A Taos appearance
Taos, New Mexico has long been a haven for the creative soul.
Since the arrival of literary notables Willa Cather and D.H. Lawrence in the
early twentieth century, literature has played a prominent role in the area’s
rich cultural landscape. As the literary arts flourished, the need for formal
community support became apparent, which ultimately led to the non-profit
incorporation of SOMOS in 1983. Today, it has expanded into its present
role as a respected resource center whose outreach extends to the greater
community of Northern New Mexico – and beyond. Their live readings, workshops,
conferences, and festivals are designed not only to showcase accomplished
writers, but also to encourage creativity in novice writers from all walks of
life. Sam will be participating in this year's fundraiser on Sunday, September
26th. It will be held at the Taos Center for the Arts.
Where fiction meets nonfiction...
I thought I'd share an excerpt today from "Costello", one of
Sam's short stories in his latest book, DAY OUT
OF DAYS. This observation is so Shepard, so autobiographical. The man is
oh so timid in his interviews but you can touch his soul in his writing.
I make no bones about my obsession with observation. I
enjoy making notes. Jotting things down. I prefer not to be stared at when
I’m furtively staring at others. There is a subtle art to the sneaking of
glances. Timing is everything. To look as though all your attention is
completely absorbed in the subject of your notebook when, in fact, you are
lurking; waiting for the moment he picks up his coffee cup, takes a chomp
out of the donut then unabashedly sucks the sticky sugar off his fingers
while continuing to scan the Racing Form. These are the ripe spans of time
where you seize the opportunity to look deeply into the essence of a man;
see the source of his greed without his having the slightest clue. Still,
you have to be constantly alert; wary of not getting caught by his quick
glance. In the flash of an eye he might become aware that you are a witness
and begin subtly altering his every manifestation; playing out the illusion
that he is in total control of his character or worse – he might become
hostile and paranoid. I’ve seen it happen. People hate to be seen. They hate
the sensation of eyes on them; being looked at for what they are and not
what they imagine themselves to be. Very few people can handle the blatant
stare except children under five. This has been my experience anyway.
June 14. 2010
"Inhale" returns to original title for German DVD
has just announced that
INHALE will have a DVD release on August 27th in
Germany under its original name, RUN FOR HER LIFE. A Blu-ray release will
also be available, but neither edition will include any bonus material.
It's a wrap!
Here are the first photos of Sam starring in
BLACKTHORN! The Butch Cassidy western was shot
in Bolivia over nine weeks and wrapped production on June 5th in the town of
Viacha. In an interview via phone this weekend, co-producer Paolo Agazzi told
the Spanish media that the film is now in post-production, which will continue
in Spain through early 2011. Agazzi believes the greatest challenge to filming
was logistical because every scene was in a different location, some more
complicated because of the altitude and cold. Many locations were remote from
urban centers, and it often took a long time to arrive and return from them.
Filming was also made more difficult due to transporting horses and a team of
over 100 people. Being an action film, there were many stunts needed, which
demanded two doubles each for Sam and co-star Eduardo Noriega. One of the
stuntmen for Sam was identified as Argentine rider Hugo Antonio Dietz.
El Pais, Spain's most popular newspaper, described Sam - "His
life has cultivated a magnetism and a special mystery. A chiseled face... A love
for writing old stories about dilapidated motels in the American Midwest and
characters at the brink of moral and physical collapse... A continuous display
of talent as a writer of plays, stories, screenplays, and as a film actor and
Director Mateo Gil says working with Sam was pretty easy.
"Shepard read the script and quickly accepted the proposal... Every day he
studied the dialogue and suggested changes to make it more alive. I appreciated
it. You never see the actor, just the character." Gil says he has stripped the
myth of the shy Shepard and warns audiences not to expect the silent cowboy.
This time around you'll find Sam very talkative, dining in the company of others
while telling stories. He referred to working with Sam and co-star Stephen Rea
"as an honor because they are both larger than life on many levels."
June 9. 2010
international conference at the University of California, Berkeley, was the
setting for a screening last month of INHALE
(note the new poster). The subject of the conference was on combating
illegal trafficking in human organs and tissues. A second film, "H.O.T. - Human
Organs Trafficking", a 2009 documentary was also shown. Todd Brown of
Twitchfilm.net had the chance to view a promo reel of the film and this was his
take - "Dermot Mulroney is essentially being asked to carry this film - he
features in every shot of the promo - and he looks to be a stellar fit as the
sort of weathered anti-hero Kormakur prefers, playing a DA forced to travel to
Mexico to procure an illegal organ transplant to save the life of his young
daughter. One of the things I love best about Kormakur is how his films interact
with their environments and it was fascinating to see how the shift from Iceland
to a desert environment has forced him to change his preferred palette while
still retaining his signature shooting style. This one hasn't sold in North
America yet but it could very well end up being something of a solid little
sleeper hit for fans of intelligent, morally complex thrillers." In a May 11th
Spanish interview, director
Baltasar Kormákur indicated that the film will premiere in the U.S. and other
countries in the autumn. Be sure to click on the film link above for more
"Tough Trade" production photos
No word yet on when the pilot for the EPIX new TV series,
TOUGH TRADE, will be aired but I did come across some production photos
taken last winter at the Thistletop Inn in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. The inn,
constructed by master builder and preservationist Braxton Dixon, was chosen as
the set location because of its unique architecture. The contemporary one-hour
drama tells the story of three generations of a Nashville music dynasty whose
penchant for drink, debauchery and divorce has left it on the verge of
bankruptcy. Sam plays the family patriarch, Linwood Tucker.
June 4, 2010
Like father, like son...
We all know how music has played a major role in Sam's life,
and it looks as though the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Walker Shepard will be 23 years old in a
and presently plays with the band, The Dust Busters, who have been featured on
the Down Home Radio Show. Both Walker and his dad also appear together on banjo
on Patti Smith's album, "Twelve".
recently referred to his son as "very, very shy", Walker's social anxiety
obviously doesn't prevent him from stepping in front
of an audience!
BAM event to be rescheduled
As part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's "Eat, Drink and
be Literary" program, BAM Cafe invites contemporary authors for
intimate evenings of readings, discussion as well as dinner and wine. Sam was
scheduled to be their guest last night. However, due to "unforeseen
circumstances", the event was cancelled and every effort is being made to
reschedule it this month. According to the BAM web site, a new date will be
announced shortly. For further information, you can cell BAM Ticket Services at
May 21, 2010
Those military roles...
to news from Cannes, specifically the premiere of FAIR GAME, it has been noted that Sam has a cameo appearance as Sam Plame.
Director Doug Liman's film tells the story of outed spy Valerie Plame, played by
Naomi Watts, with Sean Penn as her blowhard husband, Joe Wilson. It's not easy
obtaining info on the film since it has no official web site or trailer though a
scene with Watts and Penn can be viewed on youtube. The Hollywood Reporter
describes the movie's pivotal moment when Valerie seeks advice from her parents
- "Sam Shepard, playing her retired Air Force officer dad, straightens her out
about how loyalty to one's country is a two-lane street." The role is close to
home since Sam's own father was a military man in the Air Force. Through his
film career, our playwright has often been cast in military roles - The Right
Stuff, Black Hawk Down, Stealth, Brothers, and the
telefilm, One Kill. It's a great role and he plays it quite well but it's
ironic that in real life, he's rather a pacifist.
April 30, 2010
The Yin and the Yang
We all know the history of Patti Smith and Sam Shepard and
since they coincidentally have published books at about the same time, there's
much to be compared between the two artists. I came across this anonymous blog
this morning and will share it here:
Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” is a sweet memoir and a tribute, I
think, to her soul partner, the late Robert Mapplethorpe. I say sweet because
Patti’s voice is soft & clear throughout, its tenderness pervades her
storytelling and her passions for things spiritual. Her courage to leave her
loving family home without nearly enough money to go to NYC and to brave the
obvious challenges for a new start there. Her quest to make it as an artist and
the creative heights it may lead her to, will demand much for her climb. She’s
resilient, courageous, passionately faith-filled, and tender. You root for her,
Another approach... not defined enough to root for... another journey is Sam
Shepard’s “Day Out Of Days”. Sam’s voice undercurrents his prosaic tales as he
wanders America’s not-so-well-known highways, two-lane blacktops, less beaten
paths. The characters that use them, like the author himself, are characters
Instead of Patti’s exalted & reverential renderings of a majestic world where
young artist gods stumble into a future where something/anything can happen…Sam
is one hardened cynic, one stoic watcher of human folly and devastation around
him (including the guy in the mirror). He eloquently tells his short troubled
tales (nightmares almost) with too few words that expand & expound on too much.
His dismal, beautiful glimpses raise many questions, while raising
One book is fueled by a cool hope, another by a warm hopelessness.
April 28, 2010
Sam has been named the 2010 Janet Weis Fellow in Contemporary
Letters at Bucknell University. The award was established in 2002 to honor and
recognize individuals who represent the highest level of achievement in the
craft of writing within the realms of fiction, non-fiction or biography.
Previous recipients have been John Edgar Wideman, David McCullough, Toni
Morrison, John Updike, Salman Rushdie, Tom Wolfe, Joyce Carol Oates and Derek
Walcott. Sam is the first playwright to receive the award.
He will be present to receive the award on October 5 and will also give a talk
in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell. The event will be free
and open to the public. Information on tickets to reserve seating will be
announced in the fall.
In Bucknell President Brian C. Mitchell's announcement, he
said, "Sam Shepard has been a prominent fixture on the literary landscape for
decades. His plays, books and movies address the issues that are relevant to all
of us at Bucknell, whether we are students coming of age or adults getting
older. We are delighted to welcome him to Bucknell for a lively discussion about
his work and the role of his craft in our world."
Gary Grant, a professor of theatre at Bucknell whose research
and teaching has focused on Shepard and his works, says the interesting thing
about Sam Shepard is that he attracts a really diverse audience. I suppose
that's true because people relate to him through different channels - his
brilliant plays, his seductive presence on the big screen and all his wonderful
short stories and poetry.
New film page added
added the BLACK HAWK DOWN film page to the
Shepard archive. Directed by Ridley Scott, this harrowing war drama tells the
story of an October 3, 1993 military event, in which 18 US soldiers and as many
as 500 Somalis were killed in a 17-hour battle in the capital city of Mogadishu.
Scott proves once more that he's a genius at directing action films. The camera
work by Slawomir Idziak and the editing by Pietro Scalia are as outstanding as
they need to be in re-creating the mad tempo of sudden combat while Hans
Zimmer's score accompanies the action to perfection. Sam stars as mission
commander Major General William F. Garrison, who heads a team of heroic Rangers
played by Josh Harnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana and William
Fichtner. Absolutely, it was one of the best films of 2001 and one of the best
war films ever made. Rent it today if you haven't seen it.
No privacy in NYC
Occasionally the papparazzi do catch up with the famous couple in Greenwich
Village. In the photos below, they are seen walking their poodle on two
April 14, 2010
Filming has begun in Bolivia
We have our first look at Sam starring in
BLACKTHORN. The photo below shows him on location is
Peruvian actress/singer Magaly Solier, who confesses - "Sam Shepard is lovely!
I'm definitely in love!" She goes on to comment particularly on his kindness and
treating her so well. In an interview with Bolivian's newspaper La Razon, Ms.
Solier explains that she got very excited when she won the role in Mateo Gil's
film because she would be sharing scenes with Sam, whom she had seen in Terrence
Malick's "Days of Heaven". The film will continue shooting for nine
weeks in Bolivia.
Pairing up once more?
came across this news nugget but have no idea whether this film proposal might
just be sitting on the back burner for an extended period. Martinique
director/writer/producer Euzhan Palcy is planning to re-unite Sam and actress
Ellen Burstyn for a comedy drama, a project close to her heart called "Midnight's
Last Ride". Palcy is best known for having prodded Marlon Brando to come out
of self-imposed retirement. Because he was inspired by her commitment to social
change, he agreed to act in her 1989 film "A Dry White Season" without
compensation. SS movie fans will remember that thirty years ago Sam and Ellen
co-starred in "Resurrection." Janet Maslin of the NY times wrote, "The
playwright Sam Shepard, who showed such promise as he made his acting debut in
'Days of Heaven,' realizes that promise here. As Edna's hot-tempered lover, he
brings a keen, nervous alertness to the role, and a presumptuousness that turns
Since Day out of Days
was published in January, more excellent reviews continue to trickle in. Here's
Kathe Connair of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Sam Shepard knows how to spin stories out of next to
nothing and make them mesmerizing, gleeful, spooky, puzzling or
heartbreaking. This collection of more than 100 sketches, poems and short
stories is a delight throughout, as he illuminates horse trainers and
actors, aimless travelers and bored spouses, and the disconnect, literally,
between our brains and our bodies. "Saving Fats" is a rollicking story in
which an overweight airline passenger draws a quiet-seeking seatmate into
his account of personally helping save a tuxedo-clad Fats Domino - and his
white baby grand - from Hurricane Katrina's roiling floodwaters. In
'Knoxville, Tennessee,' a solitary driver meditates on the history that
informs the light 'yips' in Ralph Stanley's singing. These ruminations add
up to an aging man's still vibrant sense of yearning and wonder. As Shepard
says in 'Tops,' 'Things like these just come floating in these days.
Uninvited.' But welcome, nonetheless.
In a review in Edge New York, contributor Robert Israel makes
the following keen observation on Sam's
writing - "If there is a key to understanding Shepard and his prose, it can be
found in the short piece titled 'Chatter,' which gives as much insight as a
reader is going to get when struggling to learn why Shepard writes the way he
does, with such uncompromising intensity:"
"I now have an almost constant swirling chatter
going on inside my head from dawn to dusk," Shepard writes. "I never
could have foreseen this when I was five, playing with sticks in the
dirt, but I guess it’s been slowly accumulating over all these
sixty-some years; growing more intense, less easy to ignore. I wake
up with it. I feed chickens with it. I drive tractors with it. I
make coffee with it. I fry eggs with it. I ride horses with it. I go
to bed with it. I sleep with it. It is my constant companion."
March 25, 2010
Butch Cassidy Rides Again!
If anyone was going to make a sequel to “Butch Cassidy and
the Sundance Kid”, you might guess that Hollywood would be all over it but it
appears that the Spanish have beaten them to the punch. As reported here back in
November, Arcadia Motion Pictures has announced a pseudo sequel, set years after
George Roy Hill’s 1969 classic starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and this
time Sam will star as the aging Butch Cassidy. Though the film is Spanish-funded
and produced, BLACKTHORN will be an
English-language western set around 1910. It will be helmed by Spanish
writer/director Mateo Gil, best known for his screenplay of the 2005
Oscar-winning Best Foreign Film - "The Sea Inside" starring Javier Bardeem.
Co-stars include Eduardo Noriega and
Peruvian actress Magaly Solier. Shooting begins early next month in Bolivia with
a a $7.5 million budget.
The synopsis reads as follows: James Blackthorn (Shepard) is
an old Gringo living quietly in the green tropical valleys of Bolivia. He breeds
horses and has a romantic friendship with a native woman. He's getting on in
years and wants to die at home, in the United States. His real name is Butch
Cassidy, one of the last and most famous outlaws from the far West. But the
legend of his life has almost faded into oblivion as everyone believes him long
As he crosses the high plateau on his way home, James encounters another rider,
far younger and inexperienced. A Spanish mine engineer by the name of Ernesto
Apodaca (Noriega) who is fleeing after having robbed a mine. Remembering his
past and in need of money, Blackthorn decides to accompany the young man on his
frantic flight across Bolivia. During this time the two men, although very
different, will become friends amongst the violence and the loneliness of the
Bolivian desert. But Blackthorn is not the only one with a secret... In no man's
land and hounded by more and more armed men, both men will have no choice but to
reveal their true intentions and face reality, once and for all.
Director Mateo Gil discusses how he envisions the film's
cinematography: "Blackthorn would not be a film made up by grandiose
images and 'traditional aesthetic', of slow camera movements and tall crane
shots; but of closer images, near to the characters, that allow us to see the
landscape through their eyes as they reveal the most intimate side of their
dramatic voyage: The deep seated feelings our main character feels for the land
that has sheltered him; his feelings about the past and how they are reawakened
by the appearance of his new comrade; his feelings towards the woman with whom
he spends his afternoons, although the passion of love is absent, affection,
respect and carnality are all present; his feelings toward a young man he has
never met but who could very well be his son, to whom he writes and directs
every last effort; how he feels about the small things that surround him, his
clean but simple home, his horses, what he chooses to take with him on this last
trek, where he chooses to sleep each night as they advance…"
Sam discusses his struggle with alcohol
As many of you know, in the winter of 2009 Sam was slapped with a
and up until this time, Sam has not commented on his struggle with alcohol. In a
recent interview with The Observer (UK),
he spoke about the demon that continues to haunt him. Obviously his own father's
descent into alcoholism and the deterioration of any semblance of a happy and
stable home did not provide enough impetus for Sam to keep his distance from
booze. So, on January 3, 2009 around 2 am, a couple of officers in Normal,
Illinois, clocked him on radar going 46 mph in a 30 mph zone. That sounds like a
bum rap to me. However, after being pulled over, it was discovered Sam's alcohol
blood level was twice the legal limit. When he appeared in court the following
month, he was not only fined but also ordered to complete an alcohol treatment
program and 100 hours of community service. During the past year he received
counseling and treatment at a NY facility and donated 100 hours to the drama
department at New York University, working with students on their theater and
writing projects. (What a thrill for those students!)
Sam leaves a Bloomington, IL
courtroom with his lawyer Ken Jennings on 02/25/10
In several of his literary works, the
main character is haunted by the chilling possibility
that he is turning into his father. Back then it was a
fear; now, he says, it has become a fact.
"You think about it, you talk about
it, analyze it, and then all of a sudden you have become
the thing that you were most vehement against. It's very
Greek. They invented this shit. Or at least gave it a
He's been sober, he says, for over a year. "And prior to that I
was sober for four years and then I relapsed. It's a
constant struggle. It's such a knucklehead disease
because you refuse to see it. It wasn't until the 90s
that I actually started going to AA and made a real
compact with myself to quit. And I did quit for four
years. And then I picked it up again. It's like being a
junkie. I think I have that sort of thing in my blood,
in my psyche. I can become addicted very easily,
although the curious thing is that I have two sisters
who are not. So I don't know. Maybe it's just a toss of
It's amazing how much Sam has come to
look like his father shown here
In the same interview Sam makes a comment that greatly amused
me. He says, "The things that
about most are not on the Internet, I promise you that."
I chuckle whenever folks miscomprehend the breadth and scope of the Internet.
Obviously God is not on the Internet but everything else is! I am just nine days
younger than Sam so I know he's playing the Stubborn Old Man on this one. Sometimes you
just can't teach an old dog new tricks...
"I have a
cellphone but I have no Google, I have no gaggle." ...Sam Shepard
Now on DVD
from acclaimed filmmaker Jim Sheridan, arrived on DVD and Blu-ray on March
23. It was one of my favorite films of 2009
and was sadly overlooked last fall at the box office and should have been one of
the ten Oscar contenders for Best Picture. Such great performances from every
cast member right down to those two little girls! If you’re after good old
fashioned storytelling as an antidote to the Hollywood glitz and glamour, then
you will absolutely love this film. Special features start off with an audio
commentary from director Jim Sheridan that’s extremely informative with tidbits
learned about everything from directing actors and the U2 song used to the
differences between his film and the original Danish version. Also included are
two featurettes - "Remade in the United States" and "Jim Sheridan: Film and
March 3, 2010
A substantive review
came across this excellent review of "Day
out of Days" published on the Dossier Web Site and written by Chris
Wallace. You can read it
at this link. I have been previously complaining about the lack of
substantive reviews, but this one is 'the real McCoy' that deserves high marks.
Wallace ends his critique with "It is a beautiful and heartbreaking and sensuous
consolation even if neither the narrator nor the reader will ever give up
worrying, writhing or struggling. It is merely a chapter break in the rough,
nostalgic saga-slash-elegy wrought by one of America’s greatest men of letters,
and another reminder that what drives us will destroy us, that what we run from
we return to, that the brutal in his literature is the beauty of Sam Shepard’s
creation. It is a reminder that we will never stray far from the lonely highway
of his words."
A "Lie of the Mind" Revival
On February 18th The New Group opened "A Lie of the Mind',
directed by Ethan Hawke. The production has a limited off-Broadway engagement
through March 20 and marks the first New York revival since the play's 1985
award-winning debut. Sam already had “Buried Child,” “True West” and other plays
about dysfunctional families to his credit in 1985, when he directed the
premiere of his ensemble drama, which depicts two families torn by violence and
resentments. Starring Harvey Keitel, Geraldine Page, Amanda Plummer and Aidan
Quinn, the production ran off Broadway for six months and won the Drama Desk
Award for best play, among other honors.
Amanda Plummer and Aidan Quinn in the 1985
In a NY Times article called "Getting
Faster with Age",
Sam discusses the revival of this play - "I’ve come to see it as a bit of
an awkward play. If you were to talk about it in terms of cars, it’s like an
old, broken-down Buick that you kind of hold together to just get down the road.
All of the characters are in a fractured place, broken into pieces, and the
pieces don’t really fit together. So it feels kind of rickety to me now.” He
further admits, "I see my older plays as clunky relatives to the ones I’m doing
now, to be honest, and I don’t have a great deal of interest in those older
John Lahr of The New Yorker disagrees, "On the
contrary, as this compelling and vivacious production proves, it’s a vintage
vehicle whose quirky style somehow epitomizes its era." And theater critic Ben
Brantley (NY Times) gives high praise calling it "Shepard’s richest and most
penetrating play, a 20th-century masterwork of a family portrait to be compared
with Eugene O’Neill’s 'Long Day’s Journey Into Night' and Harold Pinter’s
February 2, 2010
The Atlantic Theater Company production of
AGES OF THE MOON has been extended by two weeks.
Directed by Jimmy Fay and starring Stephen Rea and Sean McGinley, the play was
originally scheduled to end March 7. Performances will now continue at the Linda
Gross Theater through March 21. Here's a great publicity shot of our playwright
with his "good old boys" - Irish actors Stephen Rea and Sean McGinley.
The official opening night was held on January 27th. Playbill blogger Harry Haun
posted a few comments about the festive evening - "The famously press-skittish
Sam Shepard opted to grin and bear it for the paparazzi-popping that accompanied
the Atlantic Theater opening of his new play... At least he stayed for some
group shots at the after-party at Moran’s before hitting the door. 'He’s not
doing interviews tonight,' the publicist explained.
first photo below shows Sam with his star Stephen Rea and the second one shows
him in the company of three directors with "Ages" director Jimmy Fay, Abbey
Theatre's Fiach Mac Conghail and Atlantic Theater Company's Neil Pepe. For more
opening night photos and reviews, follow this link.
John Lahr of The New Yorker has just published a
rather lengthy, but excellent article called, "The Pathfinder - Sam Shepard
and the struggles of American manhood." I'm always looking for wonderful new
ways to describe our playwright. Lahr does justice with "Shepard was
homespun and handsome, with a strong jaw and a dimpled chin. He exuded the
mystery and swagger of a movie star, which he would eventually become." If
you have time, you can read the full article. Here's an excerpt from his review on "Ages":
Under the direction of Jimmy Fay, “Ages of the Moon”
has the loose banter and percussive rhythms of Shepard’s early play - it
even has an eleven-o’clock “aria”—but the evening has more splash than
sizzle; nonetheless, since Shepard is a cunning craftsman, the play’s
charm is insinuating. Ames and Byron are intended as clowns of
inconsolability, a kind of country-and-Western Vladimir and Estragon.
They drink; they argue; they fight; they pass the time from midday to
midnight waiting for an eclipse of the moon. Twice during the evening,
Byron calls Ames “hopeless”; the word evokes his marriage. “I can’t ever
go back now,” Ames says. “I know. I can see it. The writing’s on the
The play is slight; the weight of its sorrow is not.
Shepard leaves his characters gazing poignantly into the gloaming.
“Sliver of moonlight fades to black,” the stage direction reads. As
Ernest Tubb’s bright voice sings them into shadow—“When you look at me
with those stars in your eyes / I could waltz across Texas with you”—the
men sit, drinks in hand, staring into space. The falling darkness plays
as the declivity of Shepard’s life and love. “I hate endings,” he once
said. “Just detest them. Beginnings are definitely the most exciting,
middles are perplexing, and endings are a disaster.”
Book Reading Event with Patti Smith
On January 22nd Sam and Patti Smith appeared together at a 92nd Street Y's
Poetry Project event in which the two old friends and collaborators
read passages from their recently published books: Smith's "Just Kids," a memoir
about her life with the late artist Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam's short story
anthology, "Day out of Days".
The two photos on the right show the duo meeting with children at the Poetry
Center School before they went on stage.
Sadly, it was impossible for me to attend (big sigh). Furthermore, I was
actually offline unable to provide commentary as well as photos on all the
exciting happenings of the past couple weeks. According to those who were
present at the 92Y reading, these two artists gave an engaging performance. From
the Wall Street Journal blog:
“I thought this could make a good story,” Sam Shepard
said last night at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, going on to outline a
premise whereby two people are together for a year, go their separate ways
for the next four decades, marry other lovers and start families, have
separate careers, become a rock singer in the case of one, and then, “forty
years later they get back together and see what happens.”
Patti Smith, who was sharing the stage with Shepard, laughed and said, “That
is what happens.”
The pair talked in the easy way of old friends and
improvised the evening, sometimes stopping and starting over again and
laughing. “We’re not entirely prepared but we’ve never been — and we’re
still here,” Smith said.
Shepard began with an absurdist tale of a man trapped inside a Cracker
Barrel bathroom and forced to listen to nothing but piped-in Shania Twain
songs. Smith countered with the story of how she befriended Mapplethorpe
while on a disastrous date with an older sci-fi writer. Shepard read a story
about Las Vegas, New Mexico; Smith read a poem she wrote after meeting
Shepard — a poem whose spirited recitation made the audience roar.
“Um, okay,” Shepard said. “How do I follow that?”
Eventually, he figured out a way, picking up a guitar and dueting with Smith
first on an old sea shanty and then on “You are My Sunshine,” which, Shepard
noted affectionately, was “my mother’s favorite song.”
From an anonymous blogger:
At the beginning of the event, Shepard read an excerpt of
his story about a man trapped in a Cracker Barrel restroom with the music of
Shania Twain constantly blasting inside. It prompted Smith to later remark
to Shepard, "I'm going to get you the complete boxed set of Shania Twain."
The event was very loose and informal as Smith and Shepard took turns
briefly reading from their latest works. Shepard's stories conveyed a
certain eccentric and quirky nature to them whether it is about an aging
actor or a reference to the late jazz saxophonist Eric Dolphy. His delivery
brought a charming and wry Midwestern flavor to his stories.
Smith was equally affecting with her reading of excerpts from "Just Kids,"
which included passages about her meeting Mapplethorpe in the late '60s and
how he photographed her for the famous album cover of Smith's "Horses."
Smith also told the story of meeting Shepard back when he was first known as
"Slim Shadow," the drummer of the Holy Modal Rounders. When they dined out
together at Max's Kansas City in New York, she later learned through a
friend that "Slim" was Shepard, a successful Obie Award-winning playwright.
"Well, I didn't have my eyes on Broadway and I wasn't going to drag him
around like some male trophy," Smith read, "but I figured if nothing else he
was sure to have the money to pick up the check."
Attendee Lena Valencia also gave her account:
"We’re not prepared, but we never have been, and we’re
still here," Patti Smith announced as she and Sam Shepard sat down on the
two armchairs on the stage of the 92nd Street Y last night, facing the
sold-out crowd. They read, in a sort of call-and-response fashion, excerpts
from their newest works peppered with some of Smith’s poetry and a couple of
pleasantly unrehearsed musical numbers at the end.
According to "Just Kids", Smith and Shepard met when she
went to see him play in The Holy Modal Rounders. He introduced himself
to her as Slim Shadow and Smith, oblivious to his true identity, was
attracted to this "handsome hillbilly" with a "cowboy mouth"... The
two sparked up a romantic relationship and went on to collaborate on the
play Cowboy Mouth. Forty years later, after immensely successful careers in
their respective fields, the two luminaries giggled and made digs at each
other between readings as if they were alone. They finally did what everyone
was hoping for and picked up the guitars, performing an acapella 17th
Century Sea Shanty about crossing Cape Horn, along with "You Are My
From Jason Diamond from The Faster Times:
The duo, who admitted to meeting for coffee on a normal
basis, kept the conversation between reading their work light and sweet.
Smith, reading for the first time at 92Y, played the part of the nostalgic
by reading from her wonderful new book of memories from her early days in
New York, "Just Kids". Shepard, something of a veteran of readings at the
Upper East Side institution, seemed just fine letting Smith be the highlight
of the evening, but the guy could have just as easily carried the night on
his own. Whatever the case, the sold out room was treated to an evening of
two icons reading their works and having a good time being friends.
And finally, Margaret Eby from Interview magazine:
"We're not entirely prepared," Patti Smith announced to
the crowd gathered at the 92nd Street Y last night. "But I've never been."
Smith, the ragtag godmother of New York City punk, took the stage last night
for a reading with playwright and longtime friend Sam Shepard. As it turns
out, Smith's warning was more than just coy stage banter: The whole evening
was mostly improvised, with Shepard and Smith unsure who was supposed to
read when, or quite what to do with the guitars the Y had helpfully set up
beside their chairs. Like most improvisations, the result was mixed: some
nervous laughter, quite a few awkward silences, and a couple moments of
pure, you-had-to-be-there magic.
Unsurprisingly, Shepard, in light of his considerable
acting career, was the more animated dramatic reader. The dynamic
between Smith and Shepard began as something like that of competing siblings
("This isn't a contest," Shepard reminded Smith after one selection), but
metamorphosed into one of artists deeply appreciative of each other's work.
Toward the end of the night, Smith began to smilingly defer to Shepard,
looking like a child listening eagerly to a bedtime story.
It has become apparent to me that several reviews on Sam's
latest book, DAY OUT OF DAYS, are just a
string of capsulized versions of his stories, and not a true critique in any
sense of the word. It must be disappointing to the author himself that the
response of these so-called journalists is merely a regurgitation of the book.
Then there are those who simply write gobbledygook like Susan Salter Reynolds (LA
Times) and call it a review. Useful commentary and insight, it is not.
January 18, 2010
How many people get to glimpse the private space of New York
rock poet legend Patti Smith? Everyone now. Last week the Robert Miller Gallery
in West Chelsea opened “Objects of Life,” an exhibit by photographer and
filmmaker Steven Sebring and Smith, focusing on images and objects central to
Smith’s life. The opening reception, held January 6th, was a revolving door of
celebrities and artists including Sam. Smith and Sebring collaborated for eleven years on the
documentary "Patti Smith: Dream of Life', which aired on PBS on December 10th.
During those years of filming, Sebring became increasingly interested in the
history and mythology behind the possessions and personal treasures that Smith
shared in the film's most intimate moments. It resulted in the desire to return
to his roots as photographer and to recontextualise the sacred and the
commonplace through his camera lens. The two artists have now put together this
exhibition, which includes Patti's childhood dress, her Land 250 Polaroid
camera, and a tamborine made by Robert Mapplethorpe.
Filming in Nashville
Filming for Epix's first pilot, TOUGH TRADE, began
last month in Nashville. From the recent photos above, you can see that Sam will
be sporting a scruffy look as Linwood Tucker, the patriarch of
a three-generational Nashville music family. Lucas Black plays a talented
guitarist and singer who could have followed the legacy of his grandfather
(Shepard) and his father, played by Carl Elwes. However, he has no interest in
pursuing a career in country music. Instead, he makes his money selling illegal
ammunition. Nashville native Trace Adkins will play Scared, a friend and
bodyguard to Linwood Tucker, who is fiercely loyal to the family. Joey Lauren
Adams will play Shawnelle, the strong and blunt fifth Mrs. Linwood Tucker who is
determined never to be the newest ex-wife. Boyd Holbrook will play Jackson, the
youngest Tucker, who is poised to become the crown prince of country music by
following his family's legacy. And Claire Van der Boom will play Jackson's half
sister, Billie, the only woman in the world of the Tucker men who holds the
family together with her strength and will. Epix is eyeing this new dramatic
show as the premium channel's first original series premiering this year.
Put on your reading glasses
Sam's latest collection of short stories, Day out
of Days, was released last week and a few book reviews have surfaced.
(Click on the link above for excerpts) I'm looking forward to acquiring my copy
shortly. Years later, I'm surprised how I still take delight in his tales
written down in "Motel Chronicles" almost thirty years ago. Walter Kirn of the
NY Times has one of the most awesome descriptions on Sam's latest collection - "Shepard’s book has no normal
beginning, middle and end. Its structure is not
sequential but vertical. Using fanciful anecdotes, lyric
riffs, seemingly lifelike reminiscences and quotes from
our nation’s founding thinkers, he drills down through
the strata of our history into the bedrock of American
myth. He sinks his wells at random, in offbeat spots,
taking core samples from all over the country that often
contain fossils of shared experience, some of them
heavily crusted over with legend. His words have a
flinty, mineral integrity, especially when he describes
the people around him, who come off as distinctive
individuals but also have an enduring archetypal feel,
like the iconic figures in Whitman poems. His crackpot
vagabonds, working-class survivors and footloose fellow
wanderers have been with us always and probably always
will be. Their names may change over time but not their
souls, which eventually form the ground we’re forced to
cover us as we fan out to seek our fates. But their
moans are still audible over our engine noise — if we
only slow down enough to hear them in the way that
"Paris, Texas" on Blu-Ray
Winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or and FIPRESCI awards at the Cannes Film
Festival, PARIS, TEXAS (1984) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion on
January 26th. German New Wave pioneer Wim Wenders ("Don't Come Knocking") brings
his keen eye for landscape to the American Southwest in a profoundly moving
character study written by Sam Shepard. A mysterious, nearly mute drifter named
Travis (a magnificent Harry Dean Stanton, whose face is a landscape of its own)
tries to reconnect with his young son, living with his brother (Dean Stockwell)
in Los Angeles, and his missing wife (Nastassja Kinski). From this simple setup,
Wenders and Shepard produce a powerful statement on codes of masculinity and the
myth of the American family, as well as an exquisite visual exploration of a
vast, crumbling world of canyons and neon.
Amongst the supplemental features on the disc are: an audio commentary with
director Wim Wenders; "The Road to Paris, Texas", a collage of interviews with
Wim Wenders, cinematographer Robby Muller, composer Ry Cooder, actors Harry Dean
Stanton, Peter Falk, Dennis Hopper, and Hanns Zischler, director Samuel Fuller,
author Patricia Highsmith, and film critic Kraft Wetzel conducted by director
Paul Joyce; interviews with Claire Denis and Allison Anders; deleted scenes and
Super 8 footage; trailer and more. Criterion have also included a 46-page
illustrated booklet containing Nick Roddick's essay On the Road Again;
interviews with Sam Shepard, Nastassja Kinski, Harry Dean Stanton, and Dean
Stockwell; and excerpts from the preface to "Written in the West", a collection
of photographs which Wim Wenders took in 1983 while location-scouting for Paris,