Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Obituary Note: Sam Shepard

Sam Shepard, the celebrated playwright, actor, author, screenwriter and director, died July 27, Broadway World reported. He was 73. Shepard is the author of 44 plays as well as several books of short stories, essays and memoirs. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child. Two of his other plays, True West and Fool for Love, were nominated for a Pulitzer. He was an Oscar nominee for his portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff, and received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a master American dramatist in 2009.

Shepard's books include Motel Chronicles, Cruising Paradise, Day out of Days, Rolling Thunder Logbook, Great Dream of Heaven and Hawk Moon.

In a 2016 New York Times q&a, Shepard was asked if he felt he had achieved something substantial in his career. "Yes and no," he replied. "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 up."

In a tribute, New Yorker magazine theater critic John Lahr wrote: "Sam Shepard arrived in New York in 1963, at the age of nineteen, and took the city by storm. He was funny, cool, detached. He found his groove early--a cowboy mouth with matinée-idol looks. Shepard... had an outsider's mojo and a cagey eye for the main chance. He quickly became part of that newest American class: the hipoisie. He wrote screenplays for Michelangelo Antonioni and songs with Patti Smith. He hung with Bob Dylan. To the downtown New York theatre scene, he brought news of the West, of myth and music. He didn't conform to the manners of the day; he'd lived a life outside the classroom and conventional book-learning. He was rogue energy with rock riffs. In his coded stories of family abuse and addiction, he brought to the stage a different idiom and a druggy, surreal lens. He also had the pulse of youth culture. He understood the despair behind the protean transformations that the culture was undergoing--the mutations of psychic and physical shape that were necessary for Americans to survive the oppression of a nation at war, both at home and abroad. Martians, cowboys and Indians, and rock legends peopled Shepard's fantasies. He put that rage and rebellion onstage."

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