Unlike his longtime
lover and co-parent Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard
has not been studying Buddhism. But the playwright and
actor has other reasons for donating his time and
talented friends to a fund-raiser for Minnesota's
Tibetan Buddhist community.
"They don't call it a
religion, but a science of the mind, which is very
telling," Shepard says of the Tibetans he has met. "The
culture is a very humane one - you have the feeling
you're in good hands around them, that they would never
Also, "I'm helping
Jessie," he said recently by phone from the family's
home, where, judging from the clanking and commentary in
the background, it was difficult to tell whether Lange
or Shepard was doing the dishes.
Shepard had two
reasons to drive to Los Angeles last weekend. The first
was to do some re-shoots on the Ridley Scott film "Black
Hawk Down," in which he plays a general. The release has
been bumped back from November to March 2002.
The second was to get
together with some of the musicians he has lined up to
perform at the benefit, including Jackson Browne, T-Bone
Burnett and Burnett's wife, Sam Phillips, who might
perform the title song from her new release, "Fandance."
Shepard has known
Burnett since 1975, when the two both played with Bob
Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. Burnett has since scored
two of Shepard's plays, "The Tooth of Crime: and his
most recent work, "The Late Henry Moss," which closes
today off-Broadway in New York City.
"I've always regarded
music as being influential in both my writing and
acting, and I started out with it," he said, referring
to his days as a drummer with the '60s cult band Holy
Modal Rollers. "I'm not an accomplished musician, but I
really like playing with other people."
Lots on his plate
Shepard, who turns 58
on Monday, spends most of each year at the home he
shares with Lange and their two school-age children, but
does his writing at the family's small ranch nearby in
"The Late Henry Moss,"
his latest play about two adult brothers facing the
death of their hard-bitten father, has not fared as well
in New York as it did during its premiere run in San
Francisco. The West Coast run was fortified by the
marquee power of Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and Woody
Harrelson and direction by Shepard himself. The
off-Broadway run featured one well-known lead in Ethan
Hawke and direction by longtime Shepard collaborator
Joseph Chaikin, one of several friends who talked him
into finishing the 10-year-old play, Shepard said.
"I went back and forth
about finishing this one," he said, I worked on it so
long that everyone thinks it's a rehash."
Several critics have
said the play is too similar to one of Shepard's
best-known works, "True West" - about two polar-opposite
brothers working on a screenplay.
Shepard was recently
quoted as saying "Henry Moss" would be the last of his
"family plays." True?
"Yeah, but don't hold
me to it. I get a little bit sick of it like everybody
else, but the material is so rich."
As for his favorite
local production of one of his plays, "I regret to say I
haven't seen any of them."
Shepard recently sent
off his third short-story collection, "Great Dream of
Heaven," to his editor at Random House. "I've got until
Christmas to diddle with it, but I'd describe it as
having more full stories than the other two, which are
second-largest Tibetan population in the nation, the
Twin Cities is a logical place to build a monastery,
said Thupten Dadak, a Tibetan who owns a gift shop in
Stillwater and know Shepard and Lange.
"They are obviously
very intelligent and successful people on a professional
level," he said. "When I first came here, I thought, why
aren't they in Hollywood? For me, living in America and
running a business here, it's inspiring to see people
like them who are well-known and educated, yet live very
grounded, simple lives."
Maybe Shepard is a
Buddhist, after all.