Posts Tagged ‘Sam Shepard’

Sam Shepard

August 1st, 2017 No comments

When I started out in playwrighting my exemplars where the traditional male canon of American theater: Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams; and I was escaping my personal background in undergraduate English, with its heavy accent on Shakespeare, Aphra Behn, John Gay, Molière, Ibsen, etc. It wasn’t until I started reading contemporary playwrights, including David Mamet and Sam Shepard that I realized that theater could be much, much more than the little that I had seen and read.

My first exposure was to Mamet, and his brand of hypermasculine posturing. Here I realized that the speech of characters in my plays could be street speech, every day speech, and it could be arranged rhythmically in iambs and punctuated with fuck yous.

Sam Shepard showed that plays could be stream of consciousness, have radical set designs, outlandish plots, and explore the ravaged landscape of the fevered mind. Plays like the Unseen Hand, Chicago, Cowboy #2, Rock Garden, Red Cross blew my mind when it came to the spontaneous shifts in character and action, the stark symbolism of the text, repetitive language cycles. And then I got to his bigger plays: Fool for Love, True West, Buried Child, Curse of the Starving Class, La Turista, etc. And here I saw displayed the full power of a playwright who had developed his own mythos and vision of the world. He took traditional plots and situations and suffused them with surreal events and behaviors that showed the raw unconscious pulsing just below the surface of the everyday. I knew I wanted to write like him.

Then there was the realization that I had seen him in films. Not even connecting the dots. When I was a kid I had watched his films on HBO: The Right Stuff, Raggedy Man… and then later, Thunderheart, Black Hawk Down, Bloodline. And having kids, heard a thousand times narrate the film Charlotte’s Web.

It was a hope of mine to meet him, but I’ll have to stick with his works, I guess. Sam Shepard was a unique talent, whose abilities were transcendent.

Buried Child

October 23rd, 2008 No comments

I’ve read this play a half-dozen times and read even more articles and even some dissertations on it. I have to say, seeing it is a completely different experience. What’s more, a great lot of that experience has to do with Clyde Simon, who directed it.

Things at convergence-continuum are always done a bit differently; the foremost reason being that the Liminis space puts the audience member right in the middle of the action. In this case, you are in the living room of the Illinois farm house. I saw the surprise tonight on a young man’s face when a piece of shattered saucer hit his shoe. And the odd moments when Shelly or Dodge looked for support or humor from an audience member made one feel right at home with the dysfunctional family.

There were other moments though. Places in the conversations that never struck me as humorous suddenly sprang to life and had a punch that they didn’t before. Clyde stopped the action at moments of character reflection that made them more poignant and meaningful and deeper than had they existed simply as the long-winded speeches they seem to have been—the next speaker waiting awkwardly for the one before to stop the rambling. Then there was the multimedia, which thank God con-con is famous for. Vince’s mad entrance in Act II took on new life with a blaze of explosion and World War II footage. Military armaments, airplanes, and soldiers dead and dying filled out the whole rage in which Vince was mired. The vision on the windshield drew new power from the montage of faces swirling out of the darkness like Vince’s nightmare of heredity and future inheritance. But most powerfully of all was the sickening, shock of Dodge’s confession. The disturbing revelation that convulsed Halie on the stairs and shattered this Illinois farm family as much as the incestuous breeding that preceded it.

Shepard’s play is a powerful commentary on the rotten center of the American myth and a terrible reminder of how this country has broken loose of its moorings and is drifting, like Coleridge’s ship, across a dead and merciless sea. Clyde Simon and convergence-continuum reached in and amplified the hellish nature of the thing and reminded me, again, why experiencing a play is so much more than flipping through its pages.

Special props, again, to Clyde for his fantastic directing; props on the sound and video; and a shout out to Michael Regnier, who steals the show as Dodge, the rotting patriarch of the whole untethered ship; as well as to Cliff Bailey as Tilden, with a dominating presence on the stage as the burnt out eldest son and father of the buried child. Lucy Bredeson-Smith, per usual, is powerful and frightening as the formidable Halie.

%d bloggers like this: