Genesis of an American Playwright

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He then lived with actress Joyce Aaron. From to , Shepard was involved in an extramarital affair with musician Patti Smith , who remained unaware of Shepard's identity as a multiple Obie Award -winning playwright until it was divulged to her by Jackie Curtis. According to Smith, "Me and his wife still even liked each other. I mean, it wasn't like committing adultery in the suburbs or something.

Shepard met Academy Award -winning actress Jessica Lange on the set of the film Frances , in which they were both acting. He moved in with her in , and they were together for 26 years; they separated in In , Shepard's elder son, Jesse, wrote a book of short stories, and Shepard appeared with him at a reading at City Lights Bookstore. Despite having a longstanding aversion to flying , Shepard allowed Chuck Yeager to take him up in a jet plane in , in preparation to play the pilot in the film The Right Stuff. In the early morning hours of January 3, , Shepard was arrested and charged with speeding and drunk driving in Normal, Illinois.

Shepard died on July 27, , at his home in Kentucky , aged 73, from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Sam Shepard's papers are split between the Wittliff Collections of Southwestern Writers at Texas State University , comprising 27 boxes 13 linear feet [53] and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin , comprising 30 document boxes From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other people with similar names, see Sam Shepard disambiguation. Fort Sheridan, Illinois , U. Midway, Kentucky , U.

Actor playwright author screenwriter director. O-Lan Jones m. Main article: Sam Shepard filmography. Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Sam Shepard. Sam Shepard. Perseus Books Group. New York. Archived from the original on May 3, Retrieved December 9, Institut national de l'audiovisuel in French.

May 2, Archived from the original on August 19, Retrieved June 13, Infobase Publishing. Archived from the original on July 30, Retrieved December 12, The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 31, Archived from the original on June 30, Retrieved May 10, The Guardian. Archived from the original on April 14, Film Reference. Archived from the original on December 2, Retrieved November 25, The Washington Post.

Retrieved August 16, The Theatre of Protest in America. Harden House. Retrieved December 14, Retrieved August 29, Cowboy Mouth". University of Virginia.


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Archived from the original on December 6, San Rafael Daily Independent Journal. August 19, Mill Valley Historical Society. San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on August 2, BBC News. July 31, The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on August 1, Archived from the original on February 25, Retrieved February 13, Archived from the original on February 18, American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 22, November The Sam Shepard Web Site. Mapplethorpe: A Biography — via Ocean Star. Us Weekly. Archived from the original on March 20, Retrieved May 22, Retrieved April 24, Archived from the original on July 7, Brussels : P.

E Peter Lang. Archived from the original on December 17, Cambridge University Press. Archived from the original on December 9, Sam Shepard V8, Part 4. January 3, Archived from the original on February 17, Retrieved February 16, February 11, I remember someone smashing their own bathtub with a hammer. The truth is that many of my friends happened to be white males, and they were dropping by to help me fix up the basement.

We explained to the officer that we were building a theater. One night I returned to find the entire back wall of the building had been torn down. It had been the Zen Tua House, but the city had no record of it because the tea house was a front for a communist printing press, and someone high up in city government had destroyed the records.

Then in we got our first citation from the Voice, along with Giuseppe [Joe Cino]. Before that we had been like orphans; the Obie made us legitimate. Since the beginning La Mama has been committed to doing as many plays as possible, and we still do about 40 each season. I just love the excitement of everyone running around putting plays together, the look on their faces when they leave a good rehearsal. One day I was in a cab that stalled on 14th Street, noticed their theater, got out and went up to see them. They invited me to stay and see The Connection.

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At that time we were the only rep theater in New York. Then came The Brig. Then the IRS moved in to close the theater for back taxes. They sealed off the entrance, so we had the audience climb up ladders into the second-floor window.


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  • We were arrested after the performance; they locked us up in the cage we used as a set for the play. We had no choice but to carve out our own arena. Off-Broadway for us was not so much an alternative but the only real possibility. There is no production I particularly regret. Struggle in theater is the norm.

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    The judges that year were Walter Kerr, Edward Albee, and myself, and Kerr adamantly refused to vote for it. Finally we divided the prize. Sometime after that, after I cooled down a bit, I sent Richard Schechner my picture and resume. It was a studio shot taken while I was working at the Alley Theatre. I had a beard and my hands were dramatically clasped in a sort of beatific biblical prayer position.

    There was special-effects smoke floating in the background and the whole thing looked like a publicity shot for King David. Richard asked me if I thought I could do the role in four days. The love affair had gone sour. So Joan played her role and Richard performed all the others. No mimesis and no props please. We were not to pretend we were doing anything, we were to actually do it. For me, the strangest and most far-out section was the banquet scene in which, instead of food, everyone ate the king.

    Duncan had to bare his upper torso while everyone else fell upon him and sucked. His pulpy white body held a, wild profusion of flowering hickies that started at his navel and ran, like little purple foot print, all the way to his neck. Suck harder! My fellow waiters were all actors, directors, and painters and such — including playwright Leonard Melfi, director Ralph Cook, and a busboy named Sam Shepard.

    Through all this time Ellen Stewart was producing a new play every week. We did nine one-acts in three weeks.

    Award Winning Playwright And Screenwriter Horton Foote

    There was a stage manager but no crew, so Tom ran around doing lights, and making sound and musical effects. We began with an audience of nine in a seat theater, and by the third week they were lined up around the block.

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    Down to Paris. A big flop: American expatriates walking out left and right. Our next tour tours were more successful, and culminated in with Tom Paine and Futz being produced Off-Broadway. Between these tours I continued to wait tables at the Village Gate. At that time the Obie presentations were held there. I was able to find someone else to work for me the night I won for Chicago. At La Mama in the s: Half the cast leaves a show. At Theater for the New City in the s: Half the cast walks out on a play after the first of three scheduled weeks.

    Reason: They got a bad review and felt the play was no longer a good showcase for TV jobs. Result: The author is told he cannot extend the run beyond the three weeks Equity allows even if he recasts, and if the play later moved, he would still be responsible under the showcase code to offer the roles to the actors who walked. Because theaters now get their grants based on how many premieres they do, he has not been able to get a second production anyway.

    There were, and are, many exceptions to these moods, but the general picture is accurate. The original Off-Off spirit now seems to be in the clubs and outside New York. That is the greatest riches I can ask for. The longevity of a writer depends on being unafraid to think about writing in ways different form the way he or she thought about writing before.

    The longevity of a playwright depends on having a place where his or her work will be performed with love and trust, a place that is not filled with terror and fear of collapse. A place that would rather collapse than give up the idea that there is such a thing as art.

    People came prepared to have their expectations upended, craving to be startled, shocked, even assaulted for the purpose of having a Fresh Experience. We were trying to make the theater jump out of its skin. Over a minute period prior to the beginning of the play, the intensity of both sound and light diminished until the theater became silent and dark; the actors took their places; then the lights banged on at full intensity.

    Did we really want to create a situation, establish a conspiracy, between audience and creator, wherein all judgment of competency was suspended? Then those writers appeared in all their diversity, outrage, and talent. They found places all over the city; suddenly there was room for them.

    Unfortunately no other producer thought so. So I faced her down. She knew she was trapped. When we began we obviously knew very little. The first director we had asked where the light board was. I was unsure what a light board was.

    Ellen pointed to the single on-off switch on the wall. Then he asked for gels. That threw us; neither of us knew what he meant. I must have some somewhere. He was short, untoned, freckled, redheaded, and pale to the point of green. He was also broke and Irish. He ate raw potatoes and cried a lot. And most people said he was the best gentile pianist in America. We asked Eddie and leggy Mary Woronov to star in it. Harvey would stand right on stage feeding them to her. That gave me an idea: it was the first of my plays to incorporate the actual director as an actor. He got an Obie.

    A scout for The Times was in the audience one night and, after seeing him, told me The Times ought to be covering this sort of thing. And down they were for the next Gorilla Queen , in which Eddie also appeared.

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    Genesis of an American Playwright

    He starred again in Arenas of Lutetia in , but by this time something was wrong. He repeatedly struck an actress on stage, her boyfriend intervened, and the show folded. In the years that followed I was not always in touch with Eddie. And no one seemed able to help. An autopsy failed to disclose any reason.

    I lost my voice for three days. He was One night during a blizzard we performed for only two people, Philip Glass and Bob Fury. It comes from knowing we are survivors.

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    There were several tough guys hanging around. This is third base. Titanic Hits Bottom. So said the headlines. I should have known better than to title a play Titanic. My first two plays in New York were one-acts done at 11 p. Months later came Titanic , which got more mixed reviews but had a bit of a cult following, so Yale classmate and actor John Rothman decided to move it to Off-Broadway.

    To save money it was decided that I would act as assistant stage manager and the director, Peter Mark Schifter, would be production stage manager. Sigourney remarked that she and I always ate liver and green beans for energy.

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    The police had interrupted the rehearsals that afternoon and the children in the piece were scared to perform because they thought the police might come back. The motorcycle riders in the company missed their cue. And in the middle of the performance someone leaned out of an apartment which faced the parking lot and started singing along with the rest of us. There were people in that piece, all volunteer.

    At least Off-Off still offers the possibility of working that way. It was serious spoof on Western heroes like Billy the Kid. We could seat about 80 by crowding. We placed actors all over the place — on the organ pipes, or under the balcony. An actor might pop up under your feet. We charged no admission; people contributed what they could. We begged, borrowed, and occasionally stole what we needed.

    In those days there was a shortage of actors hard to believe now , so I often ended up acting in some of the early plays.

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