Shepard, Sam, 1943-....

Alternative names
Birth 1943-11-05
English, Turkish

Biographical notes:

Sam Shepard, playwright and screenwriter.

From the description of Silent tongue: screenplay, 1992 January - February 22. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122608353

Award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and actor Sam Shepard is perhaps best known for his play and film, Paris, Texas, as well as his acting roles in such films as Raggedy Man (1981), Steel Magnolias (1989), All the Pretty Horses (2000), and Black Hawk Down (2001).

From the description of Sam Shepard Papers, 1969-1999. (Texas State University-San Marcos). WorldCat record id: 50138484

Known as the author of over forty plays, Sam Shepard, the American playwright, author, actor, and film director, was born Samuel Shepard Rogers VII, on November 5, 1943, in Fort Sheridan, Illinois.

From the description of Sam Shepard collection, 1968-1979. (University of Delaware Library). WorldCat record id: 624897517

The multi-talented actor, musician, author, playwright, and director Sam Shepard, was born November 5, 1943 in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child and received eleven Obie awards for various plays. In 1983, Shepard was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Right Stuff. He was nominated for two Tony Awards, one for Buried Child in 1996 and another for True West in 2000. For his work in television, Shepard has been nominated for an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild award for best actor in a miniseries. Sam Shepard has written 45 plays, 12 movie screenplays, and 5 books. He has acted in almost 50 movies as well as several off-Broadway plays. Shepard served as playwright in residence for ten years at The Magic Theatre in San Francisco. In 1994, he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

From the description of Sam Shepard papers, 1965-2009. (University of Texas Libraries). WorldCat record id: 300051063

Widely considered one of America’s greatest living playwrights, Sam Shepard is also an accomplished actor, director, screenwriter, and musician. Born Samuel Shepard Rogers IV on November 5, 1943 in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, Shepard is the oldest of three children. His family traveled extensively before settling in Duarte, California, outside of Pasadena, where his childhood experiences informed themes that mark much of his later playwriting. Shepard described Duarte as a “weird accumulation of things, a strange kind of melting pot – Spanish, Okie, Black, Midwestern elements all jumbled together. People on the move who couldn’t move anymore, who wound up in trailer parks.” ( Rolling Stone, 1986). Shepard told biographer Don Shewey that his alcoholic father “had a real short fuse,” and that he was often the target of his father’s anger. In high school he began acting and writing poetry. He also worked as a stable hand at a horse ranch in Chino, California from 1958-1960. Thinking of becoming a veterinarian, Shepard studied agriculture at Mount Antonio Junior College for a year; but when a traveling theater group, The Bishop’s Company Repertory Players, came through town, Shepard joined them and left home. After touring with them from 1962-1963, he moved to New York City and worked as a bus boy at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village.

In New York, Shepard spent much of his time reading the works of playwrights and writing short “rock and roll” plays which frequently focused “on a single event, the characters often talking past one another or breaking into long monologues. However puzzling the action, these plays already ring out with Shepard’s deft rhythms,” ( Contemporary Dramatists 1999). Shepard disavowed the narrative convention that required consistent character motivations, preferring instead to see his characters as capable of a wide variety of roles and actions. Shepard once told an interviewer that, “I preferred a character that was constantly unidentifiable, shifting through the actor, so that the actor could play almost anything, and the audience was never expected to identify with the characters,” (Shewey, Sam Shepard, 1997, p. 51). Shepard reconsidered this initial approach to his writing as a result of the influence of New York director and acting teacher Joseph Chaiken. As Shepard said, Chaiken helped him understand that there’s, “…no room for self indulgence in theater; you have to be thinking about the audience.” (Kevin Berger,, January 2, 2001) Chaiken also convinced Shepard to begin re-writing his plays in order to discover the essence of the experience. Prior to that, Shepard said, his “tendency was to jam, like it was jazz or something.” (Berger,, January 2, 2001)

Shepard’s playwriting debut took place at Theater Genesis on October 16, 1964, with a double bill of Cowboys and Rock Garden . In 1966, he received a grant from the University of Minnesota, the first of several he would receive in the coming years. Also in 1966, he won an unprecedented trio of Obie awards for Chicago, Icarus’ Mother, and Red Cross . The awards, presented by off-off Broadway champion The Village Voice, helped Shepard’s career gain momentum at a time when critics remained wary of his works.

In 1967, Shepard wrote La Turista, his first full-length play, which won an Obie the same year. More Obies for his early works followed, including Melodrama Play and Cowboys #2 in 1968. Shepard also received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1967 and the Guggenheim Foundation in 1968. Also in 1968, Shepard joined a rock band, the Holy Modal Rounders, playing drums and guitar. Although he played with the band for three years, he continued to write and received a second Guggenheim Foundation grant in 1971.

Shepard married O-Lan Jones Dark, an actress, on November 9, 1969, with whom he had one son, Jesse Mojo Shepard. Shepard and Dark divorced in 1984. In 1971, Shepard had a much-publicized relationship with rock singer Patti Smith. Together they wrote Cowboy Mouth, acting the parts on stage in the first night’s performance.

In 1971, Shepard and family traveled to England, where four more plays premiered ( The Tooth of Crime, Blue Bitch, Geography of a Horse Dreamer, and Little Ocean ). Tooth of Crime was later presented in the U.S., winning an Obie in 1973. The next year, Shepard returned to the United States and served as the playwright in residence for The Magic Theater in San Francisco, a post he held for the next ten years. It was during this time that Shepard made his mark on mainstream American drama, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child and producing his best-known plays, among them, True West in 1980.

In 1975, he took part in Bob Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder Review,” a nationwide touring group that included Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. Shepard eventually published an account of the experience in 1987, titled Rolling Thunder Logbook . In 1978, Shepard began his film career, appearing in Bob Dylan’s Renaldo and Clara and later that year in Days of Heaven, directed by Terence Mallick. Also in 1978, Shepard began his collaboration with Joseph Chaiken, with the theater piece, Tongues . Chaiken and Shepard would also collaborate on Savage/Love (1979), and The War in Heaven, which was presented on WBAI radio in 1985.

In the 1980s, his works continued to win awards. He won his eleventh Obie for Fool for Love (1984.) A Lie of the Mind won the New York Drama Critics Award in 1986. Also during the 1980s, Shepard’s screenwriting and acting career began to grow. Screenplays included Me and My Brother, Zabriskie Point, and Fool for Love . His most popular and critically acclaimed film, Paris, Texas, won a Golden Palm Awards at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984. This screenplay was commissioned by German director Wim Wenders, and was based loosely on Shepard’s Motel Chronicles . His acting roles included Resurrection (1980), Raggedy Man (1981), Frances (1982), The Right Stuff (1983), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, Country (1984), Fool for Love (1985), Crimes of the Heart (1986), and Steel Magnolias (1989). He wrote and directed Far North (1988), which starred Jessica Lange.

Shepard continued to write new plays in the 1990s, though his output has slowed from the dizzying pace of the 1960s-1970s. States of Shock premiered in 1991, and in 1992 a revised version of True West was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Drama. Simpatico opened in 1994, and his revision of Buried Child opened on Broadway in 1996 and received a Tony Award nomination. Another collaboration with Joseph Chaiken, When the World Was Green (A Chef’s Fable) also premiered in 1996. Shepard’s collection of stories, Cruising Paradise, was published by Knopf in 1996. Curse of the Starving Class opened in 1997 and Eyes for Consuela (based on an Octavio Paz short story) was produced in 1998. In 2001, Shepard returned to San Francisco’s The Magic Theater for the premier of his new play The Late Henry Moss .

Shepard’s acting career also flourished through the 1990s and 2000s, with appearances in Defenseless (1991), Thunderheart (1992), The Pelican Brief (1993), and The Good Old Boys (1995), among others. Shepard wrote and directed the feature film Silent Tongue (1992). Some of his additional film appearances include All the Pretty Horses (2000), based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, Blackhawk Down (2001), Swordfish (2001), The Notebook (2004), Stealth (2005), Walker (2005), and Bandidas (2006).

Shepard was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letter in 1986. In 1992, he received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy and in 1994 he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. He is currently in a committed relationship with actress Jessica Lange, with whom he has lived since the early 1980s. The couple has two children, Hannah Jane Shepard and Samuel Walker Shepard.

Shepard’s impact on modern theater can be gauged by the numerous scholarly books and articles devoted to his work, as well as the hundreds of productions of his plays, both in the U.S. and abroad.

From the guide to the Sam Shepard Papers Collection 054., 1972-1999 (Bulk: 1980-1999), (Southwestern Writers Collection, Special Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos)

Known as the author of over forty plays, Sam Shepard, the American playwright, author, actor, and film director, was born Samuel Shepard Rogers VII, on November 5, 1943, in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Shepard attended high school in Duarte, California, and then a year of college at Mt. San Antonio Junior College in nearby Walnut, California, between 1960–1961 before working his way across country as a bus driver for a small theater group. Once he arrived in New York City, Shepard held a series of odd jobs, including work as a busboy at the Village Gate in 1963. The job at the legendary jazz club exposed Shepard to the early Sixties New York scene and the impassioned jazz of musicians like Thelonius Monk and Charles Mingus. Beginning in 1964, Shepard's first experimental one-act plays were produced off-off-Broadway. Plays like Chicago (1965), Icarus's Mother (1965), Red Cross (1966), and the two-act La Turista (1967) earned Shepard distinction as one of the most important playwrights during the mid-1960s movement of off-off-Broadway theater. During the early 1970s Shepard began writing full-length plays, like Operation Sidewinder (1970) and The Tooth of Crime (1972), and continued his unconventional exploration of themes concerning rock musicians, the Old West, and dysfunctional social relations. Shepard is most well known for the plays he wrote in the late 1970s and early 1980s, such as Curse of the Starving Class (1976), Buried Child (1978), and True West (1980). In 1979 Buried Child won the Pulitzer Prize and a later play, A Lie of the Mind, won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award in 1986. Shepard has received ten Obie Awards for his plays and is regarded as one of America's most significant contemporary playwrights.

Shepard's other writing includes three collections of poems, vignettes, and short prose works. Hawk Moon (1973), Motel Chronicles (1982), and Cruising Paradise (1996) all reflect the thematic interests found in Shepard's drama. Shepard's Rolling Thunder Logbook (1977) documents Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review 1975 concert tour and provides an insider's look at the spectacle of a touring rock group.

Recognized for his work in film, which includes screenwriting, acting, and directing, Shepard has shown that his talents are diverse. Collaborating with Michelangelo Antonioni and others, Shepard wrote the screenplay for Zabriskie Point (1970), a film that portrayed late Sixties American youths. Working with director Wim Wenders, Shepard developed his prose collection Motel Chronicles into the screenplay for Paris, Texas (1984), which won the Palme d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984. Other adaptations of his own plays include Fool For Love (1985), in which he plays a leading dramatic role, Curse of the Starving Class (1994), and Simpatico (1999). Also a talented actor, Shepard received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983). During the 1980s and 1990s Shepard appeared in many films, including Frances (1982), Country (1984), Voyager (1991), The Pelican Brief (1993), and Snow Falling on Cedars (1999); and he directed and wrote the feature films Far North (1988) and Silent Tongue (1993).

Sam Shepard, Contemporary Dramatists, 6th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2000. Shepard, Sam. "My First Year in New York," New York Times Magazine, Sept. 17, 2000, p. 98.

From the guide to the Sam Shepard collection, 1968–1979, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)


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