Sam Shepard was an American actor, playwright, author, director and screenwriter whose career spanned half a century.
He was born Samuel Shepard Rogers III on November 5, 1943, in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and died on July 27, 2017, in Midway, Kentucky, at the age of 73.
Shepard won 10 Obie Awards for writing and directing, the most by any writer or director, and wrote 58 plays as well as several books of short stories, essays and memoirs.
He is considered one of America’s most celebrated dramatists, and his plays are regularly anthologized and taught in theatre courses.
Shepard also achieved fame as an actor, writer, and director in the film industry, and appeared in numerous films and TV shows throughout his career.
Some of his notable works include True West, Buried Child and Fool for Love.
Sam Shepard cause of death
The cause of Shepard’s death was complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy.
Shepard was open about his illness with those who asked him about it and was not afraid to speak about it.
He faced the disease head-on without an ounce of self-pity.
Sam Shepard’s impact on American theater
Shepard had a significant impact on American theater, both as a writer and as an educator.
His work reshuffled and reused the icons of America in a Walt Whitman kind of way, which had a remarkable contribution to the American theater.
Shepard’s plays rewrote the rules of the American stage and made the American theater finally seem cool.
His characters sounded like nothing in American theater before, and his plays were known for their ebullient sexuality, mystery and magic, freedom and fire.
Shepard’s plays are regularly anthologized and taught in theater courses, and he is considered one of America’s most celebrated dramatists.
Additionally, his influence on the development of young talents in the last few decades has been significant, and he has inspired many young playwrights:
Shepard’s legacy as a playwright and actor continues to inspire and influence the American theater community.
What was Sam Shepard’s writing style?
Shepard’s writing style evolved over the years, from the absurdism of his early Off-Off-Broadway plays to more realist styles.
Nearly all of his plays examine the functions and dysfunctions of relationships between individuals that constitute either family structures or social structures that approximate family structures, such as close friendships or tight-knit business alliances.
The wake of devastation left by figures who are incapable of bridging the abysses they have created shapes the central conflict in many of Shepard’s plays.
The pulsating rhythms of those conflicts can be tracked through Shepard’s unique use of dramatic language.
Instead of the series of natural exchanges between characters found in plays constructed on the principle of mimetic realism, the language in Shepard’s plays reflects his extensive musical background.
He also used location as a character in his plays and movies, creating a sense of desperation by using the desolate landscape of the West, which pervades his stories and hints at the idea that death is closer than you think.
Shepard believed that dialogue should not have an agenda and should be clouded by subtext.
He thought that what you write is eventually going to be spoken, and that’s why many powerful novelists can’t write a play because they don’t understand that it’s spoken and that it hits the air.
What are some of Sam Shepard’s most famous plays?
Shepard was a prolific playwright who wrote nearly 50 plays throughout his career.
His plays are regularly anthologized and taught in theatre courses, and he is considered one of America’s most celebrated dramatists.
Some of his most famous plays include Buried Child, True West, Fool for Love, Curse of the Starving Class and A Lie of the Mind.
These are just a few examples of Shepard’s most famous plays, but he wrote many others that are also highly regarded in the theatre world.