November 5, 1943
Fort Sheridan, Illinois
Playwright and actor, leader of the avant-garde in contemporary American theatre since his
earliest work. Sam Shepard's plays are not easy to catezorize, but in general they blend images of the Old
West, fascination with pop culture and science fiction. Before he was thirty Shepard had over
thirty plays produced in New York. In his works Shepard has repeatedly examined the moral
anomie and spiritual starvation that characterize the world of his drama.
Sam Shepard was the son of an Air Force man, who retired to be a farmer. He was raised on
a California farm in Duarte and studied agriculture at San Antonio Junior College. After a year
he joined a touring company of actors. Later he was appointed playwright-in-residence at the
Magic Theatre in San Francisco. In 1963 he moved to New York, supported himself by serving
tables at the Village Gate, and pursued his theatrical interests. Shepard's one act-plays were
produced in off-off Broadway theatre next year. He worked at experimental spots like La
Mama, Cafe Cino, the Open Theatre, and the American Place Theatre.
In the 1965-66 season, Shepard won Village Voice newspaper's Obie awards for his plays
CHIGACO, ICARUS'S MOTHER, and RED CROSS. His bizarre comedy, LA TURISTA, was
produced in 1967 in New York and two years later in London. Despite the critical acclaim of
MAD DOG BLUES (1971) Shepard moved to England, where he lived until 1974. During this
time he wrote several plays, that were success on both sides of the Atlantic, among others
THE TOOTH OF CRIME (1972) and GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER (1974). In the
late 1970s Shepard wrote CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS (1976), the Pulizer
Prize-winning BURIED CHILD (1979) and TRUE WEST (1981). - A LIE OF THE MIND (1986),
poetic look at the American West won New York Drama Critics Circle Award.
In 1986 Shepard was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Among his works
from the 1990s are SIMPATICO (1994), a play set within the netherworld of thoroughbred
racing, and CRUISING PARADISE (1996), which cointains 40 short stories exploring the
themes of solitude and loss of angry and anguished men.
As an film actor and scriptwriter Shepard started his career in the 1960s and co-wrote the
script for Michelangelo Antonioni's film ZABRISKIE POINT (1970). He appeared as a doomed
farmer in Terence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978), acted in Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff
as Chuck Yeager(1983), wrote the script and played in FOOL FOR LOVE (his own one-act
play published in 1983, film 1985) with Kim Basinger, and have had roles in several other
films. In 1988 Shepard made his debut as a director with FAR NORTH. Other later films
include Thunderheart (1992), The Pelican Brief (1993) and SILENT TONGUE (1994), which
he wrote and directed.
Bio contributed by Francisco Miguel Valada
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