Sam Shepard (November 5, 1943 – July 27, 2017), was an American actor, playwright, author, screenwriter, and director whose career spanned half a century. He won ten Obie Awards for writing and directing, the most won by any writer or director. Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film The Right Stuff. He received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a master American dramatist in 2009. New York magazine described Shepard as “the greatest American playwright of his generation.”
Born Samuel Shepard Rogers III, he was named after his father, Samuel Shepard Rogers, Jr. and known professionally as Sam Shepard. Sam described his father as a “drinking man, a dedicated alcoholic.” His mother, Jane Elaine (née Schook), was a teacher. As a teenager, he worked on a ranch and graduated from Duarte High School in Duarte, California (1961). He initially enrolled at Mt. San Antonio College, studying animal husbandry but soon became interested in jazz and abstract expressionism. He left college to join the Bishop’s Company, a touring repertory group.
Shepard began his film acting career in 1978, cast as a doomed land baron in Days of Heaven. Other acting roles included Cal in Resurrection (1980), the lead role in Fool for Love, and most notably, his portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983). His final film appearance was in Never Here (June 2017). His acting career included the television series Bloodline (2014-2017).
While at the Magic Theatre he was named playwright-in-residence, where he created many of his notable works, including his family trilogy. One of the plays in the trilogy, Buried Child (1978), won the Pulitzer Prize, and was nominated for five Tony Awards. This was a major turning point in his career, paving the way for some of his best-known work, including True West (1980), Fool for Love (1983), and A Lie of the Mind (1985). True West and Fool for Love were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Shepard demonstrated his gratitude to the Magic Theatre by staging The Late Henry Moss as a benefit for the theatre, in San Francisco. The limited, three-month run sold out.
Shepard taught playwriting and other aspects of theater. He gave classes and seminars at theater workshops, festivals, and universities. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986, and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1986.
See True West at Catonsville, Center for the Arts, Theatre on March 28 at 11:10 a.m., March 29 & 30 at 7 p.m., March 31 at 3 p.m. (ASL Interpreted), April 1 at 10 a.m. Purchase tickets online or call the Box Office at 443-840-ARTS.