Sam Shepard collection

Biographical and Historical Notes

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).

Sources

Sam Shepard, Contemporary Dramatists, 6th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2000. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC

Shepard, Sam. "My First Year in New York," New York Times Magazine, Sept. 17, 2000, p. 98.

Scope and Content Note

The Sam Shepard collection is a group of seven incidental items spanning the dates 1968-1979, related to the dramatic work of this American playwright, which includes three playscripts, two programs, a contract, and a poster. Two of the programs appear to have belonged to Albert Poland, a producer of two of Shepard's plays. The contract for Curse of the Starving Class, 1976, is particularly interesting as it documents the specific details concerning the production rights, artistic control, and financial aspects related to a play produced off-Broadway. Also of note is the program for Buried Child, Shepard's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama for 1979.