Sam Shepard, Actor and Pulitzer-Winning Playwright, Is Dead at 73 – New York Times

 In Entertainment

In plays like “True West” (1980), “Fool for Love” (1983) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Buried Child” (1978), he dismantled the classic iconography of cowboys and homesteaders, of American dreams and white picket fences, and reworked the landscape of deserts and farmlands into his own shimmering expanse of surreal estate.

In Mr. Shepard’s plays, the only undeniable truth is that of the mirage. From early pieces like “Chicago” (1965), written when he was in his early 20s and staged in the margins of Off Off Broadway, to late works like “Heartless” (2012), he presented a world in which nothing is fixed.

That includes any comforting notions of family, home, material success and even individual identity. “To me, a strong sense of self isn’t believing in a lot,” Mr. Shepard said in a 1994 interview with The New York Times. “Some people might define it that way, saying, ‘He has a very strong sense of himself.’ But it’s a complete lie.”

Photo

Sam Shepard and Barbara Hershey in “The Right Stuff.”

Credit
The Ladd Company

That feeling of uncertainty was translated into dialogue of an uncommon lyricism and some of the strangest, strongest images in American theater. A young man in “Buried Child,” a bruising tale of a Midwestern homecoming, describes looking into the rearview mirror as he is driving and seeing his face morph successively into those of his ancestors.

Mr. Shepard wrote more than 55 plays, acted in more than 50 films and had more than a dozen roles on television. He was also the author of several prose works, including “Cruising Paradise” (1996), and the memoir “Motel Chronicles” (1982). Though he received critical acclaim almost from the beginning of his career, and his work has been staged throughout the world, he was never a mainstream commercial playwright.

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