Buried Adult
July 31, 2017 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Sam Shepard, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author, actor, director, and screenwriter, died Sunday, age 73.
posted by ubiquity (59 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by ubiquity at 10:23 AM on July 31


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posted by Sphinx at 10:28 AM on July 31


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posted by mondo dentro at 10:28 AM on July 31


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posted by Cash4Lead at 10:32 AM on July 31


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posted by Etrigan at 10:34 AM on July 31


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My Facebook feed has become a roster of TRUE WEST quotes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:34 AM on July 31


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posted by xammerboy at 10:37 AM on July 31


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posted by the sobsister at 10:38 AM on July 31


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posted by double bubble at 10:40 AM on July 31


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I have complicated feelings about Shepard's play because it was the first example I remember of fans ruining something for me before I could even get started with it. Too many men* I knew who adored him were the kind of toxic bastards where you just wanted to say "Hey asshole, you're what he's writing about!" I didn't have any of the words for that at the time, and that's obviously not the fault of the author, but it changed my opinions of him and his work for a long time and have been inspired today to think more about that.

* - I mean, it was just a couple, but it was a couple too many.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:43 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


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posted by marlys at 10:52 AM on July 31


I also had this experience. A toxic swamp of male entitlement in Omaha loved to do Shepard because it gave them a chance to be macho and sweaty and actory. And Shepard himself came from that sort of environment, specifically Theatre Genesis, which was mostly men doing dangerous menly men things, something that the terrific playwright María Irene Fornés described as having an "undercurrent of anger, disappointment, possible violence."

It's sort of hard to separate out Shepard and his work for a cult of toxic masculinity, especially since that so often seems to be the subjects of his plays, and, as scrappy and conflicted and anitheroic as they often are, it's really hard to shake the feeling that he's celebrating this sort of behavior.

Terrific playwright, fascinating man, but I do sort of long for a time when we don't spend so very much energy on plays about two awful men beating each other up in the desert.
posted by maxsparber at 10:54 AM on July 31 [13 favorites]


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posted by Gorgik at 11:05 AM on July 31


I'm very unfamiliar with the works of Sam Shepard. If anyone would like to note their favorite recorded performances or scripts I'd appreciate it greatly.
posted by cyphill at 11:08 AM on July 31


The film he wrote, Paris, Texas, is heartbeaking and lovely, as well as being a showcase for Harry Dean Stanton.
posted by maxsparber at 11:10 AM on July 31 [16 favorites]


Here's the full video of the John Malkovich/Gary Sinese version of True West:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE8B1A9656CB77B92
posted by MythMaker at 11:15 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


"Hey, Ridley, ya got any Beeman's? Loan me some, will ya? I'll pay ya back later."

He will always be Chuck Yeager to me.
posted by zooropa at 11:35 AM on July 31 [11 favorites]


He will always be Chuck Yeager to me.

Coincidentally, i was just thinking about "whatever happened to Sam Shepard" just the other day after it was announced that Leonardo DiCaprio will be doing a cable TV series based on "The Right Stuff".
posted by briank at 11:43 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


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posted by helmutdog at 11:46 AM on July 31


I loved him in The Right Stuff, I loved him in Steele Magnolias. I loved Paris Texas. I will miss him.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:10 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Why is no one mentioning that he was drummer for the Holy Modal Rounders?
posted by snofoam at 12:18 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Chuck Yeager is still alive, BTW.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:18 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


Why is no one mentioning that he was drummer for the Holy Modal Rounders?

Because we didn't know! Amazing! I didn't know, and I have one of the albums on which he appeared! He did it in the late 60's, when his playwriting career was taking off. He won six Obies while he was in the band.
posted by ubiquity at 12:25 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


My Facebook feed has become a roster of TRUE WEST quotes.

Saw him in a performance of True West back in the early 80's.

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posted by Samizdata at 12:30 PM on July 31


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posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 12:35 PM on July 31


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posted by Fizz at 12:37 PM on July 31


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posted by Faintdreams at 12:41 PM on July 31


His film, Days of Heaven stayed with me for many years after I saw it. I still think it is one of the most beautiful films ever.
posted by dbmcd at 12:57 PM on July 31


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posted by cazoo at 12:57 PM on July 31


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posted by Ink-stained wretch at 1:13 PM on July 31


oh man, this hurts. His one-acts were the foundation of my college experience as a directing major.
posted by janey47 at 1:15 PM on July 31


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Curse Of The Starving Class was my introduction to real theater. RIP, Sam.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:21 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


cyphill, my first experience of Shepard's word was his one-act Action, which I still think of fondly. I directed 4-H Club in college, and I've always liked Curse of the Starving Class. Not such a fan of Buried Child, tbh
posted by janey47 at 1:25 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


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posted by rhizome at 1:33 PM on July 31


Apart from being in a not-very-good production of Buried Child many years ago, I mostly remember Sam Shepard as the ghost of Hamlet's father in the 2000 movie with Ethan Hawke as Hamlet.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:35 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Sam Sheppard was a great actor, and a great writer, and his argument that the obliqueness of western masculinity, the laconic not talking, was actively dangerous, that homosociality of the west, had a explicit violence, to examine and deconstruct and analyze what the silence of John Wayne meant, was incredibly useful. I am thinking especially of True West--with one brother talking and one brother trying to write, and the collapses found there...True West argues about realism, about how to write what is real, and about the impossibility of that work. Also, Buried Child's thots about economics and family displacement could have stumbled into this post-Miller hack socialism, but it gets weirder and more estranging, almost biblical.

I saw one of his one acts in the basement of a Toronto frat house, which was one of the more isolating erotic experiences in my life.
posted by PinkMoose at 2:21 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


grumpybear69: ".Curse Of The Starving Class was my introduction to real theater. RIP, Sam."

I have a great memory of seeing that in a small theater in the round with my roommate and his mother. Pre-internet, we didn't know anything about the play and had no idea that the lead actor would be naked for most of one act. Roommate was mortified but his mom thought it was hilarious.
posted by octothorpe at 2:42 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I think, like all geniuses, Shepard inspired a million bad imitators who took his settings and characters at face value and thought all you had to do was write about a lonely drunk guy with a belt buckle and you were DOING THE REAL SHIT MAN, but his plays are so beautiful and gentle and funny and I think you can see the better angels of his talent in a lot of the best playwriting of the last 15 years that almost exclusively doesn't concern straight white dudes trying to Make Theatre Tough Again.

I was thinking today about how, maybe only in this one way, he's a lot like David Lynch where the best descendents of his style saw the humor in what he was doing and the worst took it deadly earnest and missed the point entirely.
posted by StopMakingSense at 3:05 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


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posted by shiny blue object at 6:20 PM on July 31


  Why is no one mentioning that he was drummer for the Holy Modal Rounders?

Rounders fans — who are trending pretty elderly these days — are doing a sombre on Facebook right now. Here's a very blurry version of HMR playing Laugh-In in 1968 with Sam on drums: You've Got The Right String But The Wrong Yo Yo.
posted by scruss at 6:38 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


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posted by allthinky at 7:34 PM on July 31


Here's the full video of the John Malkovich/Gary Sinese version of True West:

I stumbled on that on PBS when I was like 12 years old, and watched the rest of it. I didn't know WTF I was watching, but it was riveting.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:52 PM on July 31


Zoe Stampfel, the daughter of Holy Modal Rounders founder Peter Stampfel, posted this on Facebook:

Today we lost an American legend. Although known primarily for his writing he was also a great musician and was a drummer in my dads band for a brief time in the 60's and has been a family friend ever since. My heart goes out to his wonderful family, friends, collaborators and fans. He will be missed, loved and remembered forever.


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posted by jonp72 at 7:55 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


a true loss. i was a long-time admirer of his work and long career on the screen - from scripting "paris, texas," to roles in films like "days of heaven" and "the right stuff," and even the recent netflix series, "bloodlines." and yet it was years before i even knew about his plays. a few years ago i remember coming across, and being amazed by, photos of him and patti smith in the early 1970s, in NYC. he was so young, and yet a pulitzer-winning playwright, even then. when i lived in santa fe in the 1990s, i remember one day seeing him and jessica lange with their kids at downtown subscription coffee shop, just on their way out. it was the only time i ever saw them while i lived there. i don't know why, but i took pleasure in that moment.

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posted by buffalo at 8:13 PM on July 31


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posted by filtergik at 3:19 AM on August 1


I'm in the first-discovered-him-as-Chuck-Yeager crowd.

For years, I wanted to be Chuck Yeager. But not the actual Chuck Yeager (that guy....eh...well...) but the version Sam Shepard portrayed on the screen. That guy...that guy was pretty awesome.

Really liked him in "Thunderheart" as a corrupt FBI agent, too. The movie was so-so, but he tended to raise the bar in everything he did - made the movie better than it should have been.
posted by Thistledown at 4:44 AM on August 1


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posted by Gelatin at 5:05 AM on August 1


He will always be Chuck Yeager to me.

I'm going to remember him as the almost unbelievably beautiful guy with Patti Smith in the 1971 Judy Linn photo. (Do I objectify him? I do objectify him.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:01 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


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posted by Joey Michaels at 10:14 AM on August 1


Patti Smith has written a beautiful piece about him in the New Yorker. (If you're locked out, open the link in a private window.)
Sam promised me that one day he’d show me the landscape of the Southwest, for though well-travelled, I’d not seen much of our own country. But Sam was dealt a whole other hand, stricken with a debilitating affliction. He eventually stopped picking up and leaving. From then on, I visited him, and we read and talked, but mostly we worked. Laboring over his last manuscript, he courageously summoned a reservoir of mental stamina, facing each challenge that fate apportioned him. His hand, with a crescent moon tattooed between his thumb and forefinger, rested on the table before him. The tattoo was a souvenir from our younger days, mine a lightning bolt on the left knee.

Going over a passage describing the Western landscape, he suddenly looked up and said, “I’m sorry I can’t take you there.” I just smiled, for somehow he had already done just that. Without a word, eyes closed, we tramped through the American desert that rolled out a carpet of many colors—saffron dust, then russet, even the color of green glass, golden greens, and then, suddenly, an almost inhuman blue. Blue sand, I said, filled with wonder. Blue everything, he said, and the songs we sang had a color of their own. ...
posted by maudlin at 12:11 PM on August 1 [3 favorites]


One of the things I reflect on when I read Shepherd (or on the rare occasions I get to watch his plays) is how his most violent adult male characters seem to essentially be giant children. They're deadly but its impossible to reason with them or protect yourself from their sudden outbursts of violence because they lack self-control and the ability for self-reflection. I'm thinking specifically of Jake in "Lie of the Mind" but this is true of many of his other characters as well.

Maybe I'm being overly generous but my impression was always that his plays are savage critiques of American culture in general and American men in particular. American men fail in every conceivable family role - fathers, grandfathers, brothers, husbands, sons, everything. They fail at least in part because they've bought into American myths about how men are supposed to behave but they lack all the traits necessary to succeed in those prescribed roles.

Part of this is because they're idiots but part of it is because the other characters in the play enable them like mad. They're great, terrifying works.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:31 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


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posted by Token Meme at 8:23 AM on August 2


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