Shepard, Sam

Shepard, Sam, 1943–2017, one of the major American playwrights and actors of his era, b. Fort Sheridan, Ill., as Samuel Shepard Rogers 3d. A product of the 1960s counterculture and an important figure in that era's Off-Broadway movement, Shepard combined wild humor, grotesque satire, myth, and a sparse, haunting language evocative of Western movies to create a subversive vision of America. His settings are often a kind of nowhere land on the American Plains, his characters are typically loners and drifters caught between a mythical past and the mechanized present, and his works often portray the darker aspects of deeply troubled families. His many plays include Curse of the Starving Class (1977), Buried Child (1978; Pulitzer Prize), True West (1980), A Lie of the Mind (1985), States of Shock (1991), Simpatico (1994), The Late Henry Moss (2000), The God of Hell (2004), and Particle of Dread (2014), his last. Shepard also wrote the screenplays for The Right Stuff (1983), in which he played the part of Chuck Yeager , and Paris, Texas (1984); wrote and directed Far North (1989) and Silent Tongue (1994); and acted in more than 50 films. His prose works include the stories, meditations, reminiscences, and other pieces collected in Motel Chronicles (1982), Cruising Paradise (1996), Great Dream of Heaven (2002), and Day Out of Days (2010), as well as the autobiographically based novellas The One Inside (2017) and Spy of the First Person (2017); the last concerns an old man dying of a degenerative disease, his diminishing life interspersed with memories of the past.

See biographies by D. Shewey (1997) and J. J. Winters (2017).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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