PAL: Perspectives in American Literature - A Research and Reference Guide - An Ongoing Project

© Paul P. Reuben

Chapter 8: Sam Shepard (1943 - )

Page Links: | Primary Works | Selected Bibliography 1980-Present | MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |

| A Brief Biography |

Site Links: | Chap. 8: Index | Alphabetical List | Table Of Contents | Home Page | November 2, 2011


The Sam Shepard Web Site

Primary Works

Five plays: Chicago, Icarus's mother, Red cross, Fourteen hundred thousand, Melodrama play. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967. PS3569 .H394 F5

Operation sidewinder; a play in two acts. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970. PS3569.H394 O6

The unseen hand and other plays. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill: 1972. PS3569 H394 U5

Mad dog blues & other plays. NY: Winter House 1972. PS3569 H394 A6

The tooth of crime; and, Geography of a horse dreamer: two plays. London: Faber, 1974. PS3569 H394 T6

Curse of the starving class: a play in three acts. NY: Dramatists Play Service, 1976. PS3569 .H394 C87

Angel City & other plays. NY: Urizen Books, 1976. PS3569 H394 A8

Seduced: a play in two acts. NY: Dramatists Play Service, 1979. PS3569 .H394 S43x

Buried child, & Seduced, & Suicide in B. NY: Urizen Books, 1979. PS3569.H394 B8

True west. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1981. PS3569 .H394 T75

Seven plays. NY: Bantam Books, 1981. PS3569 .H394 A6

Hawk moon: a book of short stories, poems and monologues. NY: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1981. PS3569.H394 H3

Motel chronicles. with photographs by Johnny Dark. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1982. PS3569 .H394 M6

Fool for love. And The sad lament of Pecos Bill on the eve of killing his wife. words by Sam Shepard; music by Sam Shepard & Catherine Stone. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1983. PS3569 .H394 A6

A lie of the mind: a play in three acts The war in heaven: angel's monologue. by Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard. NY: New American Library, 1987. PS3569 .H394 L5

Joseph Chaikin & Sam Shepard: letters and texts, 1972-1984. edited by Barry V. Daniels. NY: New American Library, 1989. PS 3569 .H394 Z486

Simpatico. NY: Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1995. PS3569 .H394 S56

Selected Bibliography 1980-Present

Auerbach, Doris. Sam Shepard, Arthur Kopit, and the Off Broadway theater. Boston: Twayne, 1982. PS351 .A9

Bottoms, Stephen J. The Theatre of Sam Shepard. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 1998.

Callens, Johan. From Middleton and Rowley's Changeling to Sam Shepard's Bodyguard: A Contemporary Appropriation of a Renaissance Drama. Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1997.

DeRose, David J. Sam Shepard. NY: Twayne, 1992. PS3569 .H394 Z67

Graham, Laura J. "Sam Shepard." in Eisler, Garrett. ed. Twentieth-Century American Dramatists: Fifth Series. Detroit: Gale, 2008.

Hall, Ann C. 'A Kind of Alaska': Women in the Plays of O'Neill, Pinter, and Shepard. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1993.

Hart, Lynda. Sam Shepard's metaphorical stages. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood P, 1987. PS3569 .H394 Z69

Malkin, Jeanette R. Memory Theater and Postmodern Drama. Ann Arbor, MI: U of Michigan P, 1999.

Marranca, Bonnie. ed. American dreams: the imagination of Sam Shepard. NY: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1981. PS3569 .H394 Z56

McDonough, Carla J. Staging masculinity: male identity in contemporary American drama. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1997. PS338 .M46 M33

McGhee, Jim. True Lies: The Architecture of the Fantastic in the Plays of Sam Shepard. NY: Peter Lang, 1993.

Patraka, Vivian, and Mark Siegel. Sam Shepard. Boise: Boise SU, 1985. PS3569 .H394 Z8

Tucker, Martin. Sam Shepard. NY: Continuum, 1992. PS3569 .H394 Z92

Wade, Leslie A. Sam Shepard and the American theatre. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood P, 1997. PS3569 .H394 Z97

- - -. "Sam Shepard and the American Sunset: Enchantment of the Mythic West." in Krasner, David. ed. A Companion to Twentieth-Century American Drama. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

Wilcox, Leonard. ed. Rereading Shepard: Contemporary Critical Essays on the Plays of Sam Shepard. NY: St. Martin's, 1993.

Wilson, Ann. "Great Expectations: Language and the Problem of Presence in Sam Shepard's Writing." in King, Kimball. ed. Modern Dramatists: A Casebook of Major British, Irish, and American Playwrights. NY: Routledge, 2001.

| Top |Sam Shepard: A Brief Biography

A Student Project by Melina Soomalan

Playwright and actor Sam Shepard was born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois on November 5, 1943. His birth name is Samuel Shepard Rogers and while some referred to him as Steve Rogers, his most popular nickname was Charlie. His mother, Jane Elaine, was originally from Chicago. She was forced to move from home to home due to her husband's constant army base transfers as a member of the Air Force. Later, Shepard's father spent a few years teaching high school Spanish. When retired from the military and teaching career, his family was finally able to settle down on a farm in California. However, the quality of Shepard's family life did not improve; shortly after his retirement, Sam's father became an alcoholic. Although father and son had little in common, they shared the same name. It was a tradition in Shepard's family that every first-born son is to be named after his father (Amazon). Sam never had a very stable relationship with his father which could possibly explain the change of name that followed just a few years later.

Shepard officially changed his name to Sam Shepard in 1963 when he moved to New York at the age of 19. Before settling there, Shepard lived in San Francisco where he joined a small group of touring actors and soon became a playwright in residence at the San Franciscan Magic Theatre. Nonetheless, his aspiration of becoming an actor was not served sufficiently; as a result, he decided to pursue his dreams in New York where more opportunities became available to him. Very soon after his arrival there, he took on a job as a waiter at the Village Gate in order to be able to financially support his "theatrical interests." (Amazon) While temporarily working at different places, such as La Mama, Café Cino, the Open Theatre and the American Place Theatre, Shepard received good comments for his first complete play Cowboys by the well-known critic The Village Voice. However, it was upon receiving two large grants, a Rockefeller Foundation and a Guggenheim grant which he earned for his contributions to the Holy Modal Rounders band, that he began to devote himself to writing full-time (Amazon).

During the same year Shepard came to New York, several revolutions were taking place. According to an online source titled WESTERNS, it was "-the year of Jack Kennedy's assassination and the beginning of the escalation in Vietnam, but also the start of the hippie era." (Mayer, 2000/1). Along with these life-changing events, the arts as a whole found its independence from society's standards, and the "Off-off Broadway" theatre was introduced for the first time (Bottom 29). The new concept of Broadway landed him several parts, and his main interest lay in Western-driven themes. Soon, he appeared in a stage-production playing the role of a cowboy; however, the late sixties brought Shepard to an awakening. In an interview conducted by Stephen Fay and published in The Sunday Times, he says "It was as though somebody was stuck somewhere and had nothing to do but whittle on a piece of wood, and all of a sudden discovered he could make sculpture." (1984) At this point, he had to rediscover himself, and it was of importance to move to a new environment (Mayer, P2000/1).

Consequently, Sam Shepard took his actress wife, Jessica Lange, who in 1995 played the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, and son to London. There, he lost focus on theatre and developed a betting habit; Shepard found a new passion for greyhound racing in White City and kept himself busy with it for a while. Fortunately, he eventually regained his focus and Shepard managed to produce four plays in London at the Hampstead Theatre Club and the Royal Court. Yet, he started to miss the States and moved back to San Francisco in 1974. Several of his plays were performed at the famous Magic Theatre, but his play Buried Child earned the most success and even received the Pulitzer Prize in 1979. In his interview with Fay, he states:

I guess I'm always hoping for one play that will end my need to write plays. Sort of the definitive piece, but it never happens. There's always disappointment, something missing, some level that hasn't been touched, and the more you write the more you struggle, even if you are riding a wave of inspiration. And if the piece does touch something, you always know you haven't got to the depths of certain emotional territory. So you go out and try another one (Fay 1984).

This mentality helped Shepard achieve countless productions, recognitions and awards in the future through which he gained his title as the "true American hero." (Roudane 139)

In total, Sam Shepard has composed 45 plays. Out of these, 11 have earned Obie Awards. Shepard has also made an appearance in an astonishing 16 films altogether. In 1984, he was nominated to receive an Oscar for his role in The Right Stuff. He also won the Golden Palm Award at Cannes Film Festival for Paris, Texas within the same year. His pieces Far North, Simpatico, Curse of the Starving Class, True West, Fool for Love and A Lie of the Mind received great recognitions as well, but his major breakthrough was when he was added into the Theatre Hall of Fame in the year of 1994 after he was appointed to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986 and earned the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy in 1992 (Stage Door 2006).

Currently, Sam Shepard lives with his wife in Stillwater, Minnesota, as "one of America's foremost living playwrights." (Mayer, 2000/1)

Works Cited

"Books and Writers." Amazon. 2003. <>.
Bottoms, Stephen J. The Theatre of Sam Shepard: States of Crisis. Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Roudane, Matthew C. The Cambridge Companion to Sam Shepard. Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Fay, Stephen. "Extracts from an Interview with Sam Shepard." Playwright and Theatre. 29 Sept. 2005.
Defying MacBeth Theatre Group.
"Playwright: Sam Shepard." Stage Door. 2005.<>.

MLA Style Citation of this Web Page

Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 8: Sam Shepard." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. URL: (provide page date or date of your login).
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