3. Author and Works

There is no doubt that Sam Shepard is one of America’s most important and prolific contemporary playwrights, as well as a well-known actor and movie-star. Among other things his plays deal with modern social concerns, i.e. individual alienation and the destructive forces of family relationships in present-day American society.
Shepard was born under the name of Samuel Shepard Rogers in Fort Sheridan, Illinois in 1943. His father, an army pilot, retired early to become a farmer. So the family moved from South Dakota to Florida to Utah and finally settled in a rural suburb of Los Angeles. As his father was an alcoholic Shepard's memories of home are not very good.
After high-school he began to study agricultural science at Junior College for a year. Finally, when his father began drinking heavily and the situation of the family deteriorated, he joined "The Bishop's Repertory Company", a touring theatre group that made a point of performing plays based on Christian ideas and values.
At the age of twenty, Shepard moved to New York City, where he wrote his first two one-act plays Cowboys and The Rock Garden. Both performed in 1964. Because of their unconventional structure and their long monologues written in manic language, they were criticized in many papers. Other critics, however, acclaimed them as typical American and rather original. Several other one-act plays followed and some of them won "Off Broadway" awards ("Obies"). In 1969, two years after his first full-length play, La Turista, he married the actress O-Lan Johnson. In 1971 they moved to England with their son Jesse Mojo. During the summer of 1972 not fewer than five Shepard plays were performed in London and won an enthusiastic audience. Thus he decided to concentrate on his career as a playwright. It was in 1979 that Shepard won a Pulitzer Prize for his play Buried Child, a darkly funny family drama full of powerful and violent metaphors and perhaps Shepard's most chilling analysis of the American family. One year later another family play, True West (1980), was staged both in New York and San Francisco.

  True West Cover  

Sam Shepard, True West



1. Plot (synopsis)
Selection Principle / Didactical Evaluation

3. Author and Works


Shepard also worked on motion pictures, wrote the screenplay for Paris, Texas (1984) and acted in a number of motion pictures like The Right Stuff (1983), Fool for Love (1985), Crimes of the Heart (1987) and Thunderheart (1992), just to mention a few. Meanwhile he has written more than forty plays and starred in over twenty motion pictures.

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