Sam Shepard died today, July 31, 2017, at the age of 73 of ALS. Yes, he was an Academy Award-nominated actor, but he was so much more than that. It’s a shame that some obituaries have focused primarily (if not exclusively) on his acting career.
Shepard was a contemporary literary giant. That’s no exaggeration. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his play, “Buried Child,” which has been produced countless times. I saw a new production of it in New York just last year with Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.
Four of his plays were produced on Broadway, including “Fool for Love” in 2015 with Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda. Other notable plays by Shepard include “True West,” “Curse of the Starving Class,” “Savage/Love,” and “Cowboy Mouth,” among many others.
Shepard also wrote stories and screenplays for films, but what many people don’t know is that he was a poet as well. Some of his work in this genre moved me the most of all of his writing. It was raw and brave, just like his plays.
It would be a travesty to diminish Shepard’s impact on theater in particular and, indeed, literature in general. His was a truly unique voice, and such seminal voices are exceedingly rare.
In an interview with The Paris Review, Shepard once said, “The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning.”
R.I.P., Sir, and thank you for your brilliance.