This article by Graeme Wood about the resurgent relevance of Sam Shepard’s plays brings back a few memories. The first is of reading “Fool for Love” in my college dorm the day before classes began my freshman year. It was the last play in an anthology required for a Theater 101 course, and for some unknown reason I started reading it in the middle of the afternoon. I was so gripped by it that I didn’t stop until I’d finished. My college education began in earnest before the classes did.
Two years later I was in Manhattan with a traveling drama ministry and went to see “Buried Child” at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. By that time I had read several Shepard plays but never seen one staged. I had not read “Buried Child.” It starred James Gammon of “Major League” and was directed by Gary Sinise. One of the actors hurled a coffee mug across the set, and it shattered against a wall.
The following fall I took an acting course and chose a scene from “True West” to perform with a classmate. It was really hard. I came away from it with a strong preference for reading Shepard over performing him, or, for that matter, performing at all.
Wood’s essay is worth the read. It prompted me to get tickets to “True West” playing at the Steppenwolf Theater this Saturday.