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SAM SHEPARD

Born in Illinois, Sam Shepard (b. 1943) spent formative years on an avocado and sheep ranch in Duarte, California, at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains about forty miles east of Los Angeles. After a year at the local junior college, where he went to study agricultural science, he migrated to New York City and, living a "starving artist" life, began writing one-act plays that soon developed an intense following on Off-Off-Broadway. These works, like his later, more ambitious dramas, are characterized by an unsettling inwardness, amounting to a layingbare of characters' selves that renders them accessible to an audience in shared. no-barriers life. Using black humor, stock and stereotypical characters, the familiar idiom of pop culture, and occasionally violence, Shepard's plays deliver insight-and beyond that, unanswerable realization--into the psychological thisness of modern American life. He is particularly interested--as the dramas Buried Child, Fool for Love, and True West demonstrate--in depicting the tormenting gulf between American myths and American daily reality. Shepard has hit the national nerve accurately enough to have become both a popular favorite and one of the most highly regarded literary playwrights of his time. He has also worked successfully as a film actor, gaining an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in The Right Stuff ( 1984). True West was first performed in San Francisco in 1980.

The Literary West: An Anthology of Western American Literature by Thomas J. Lyon; Oxford University Press, 1999

Beyond Naturalism: A New Realism in American Theatre by William W. Demastes; Greenwood Press, 1988 : - Chapter Four. Sam Shepard's Realistic Drama

The Cambridge Companion to Sam Shepard by Matthew Roudané; Cambridge University Press, 2002 - 1: Born Injured: the Theatre of Sam Shepard - Notes - 2: Shepard and Off-Off-Broadway: the Unseen Hand of Theatre Genesis - Notes - 3: Shepard on Shepard: an Interview - 4: A Note on Sam Shepard - 5: Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard in Collaboration - Notes - 6: Repetition and Regression in Curse of the Starving Class and Buried Child - Notes - 7: Shepard Writes About Writing - Notes - 8: Reflections of the Past in True West and a Lie of the Mind - Notes - 9: Patriarchal Pathology from the Holy Ghostly to Silent Tongue - Notes - 10: The Classic Western and Sam Shepard's Family Sagas - Notes - 11: European Textures: Adapting Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus - Notes - 12: Sam Shepard and the Cinema - Notes - 13: Sam Shepard as Musical Experimenter - Notes - 14: Sam Shepard's Nondramatic Works - Notes - 15: States of Shock, Simpatico, and Eyes for Consuela: Sam Shepard's Plays of the 1990s - Notes - 16: Sam Shepard's the Late Henry Moss - Notes - 17: Sam Shepard: a Bibliographic Essay and Production Overview

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True West

(1980)
Characters

AUSTIN: early thirties, light blue sports shirt, light tan cardigan sweater, clean blue jeans, white tennis shoes

LEE: his older brother, early forties, filthy white t-shirt, tattered brown overcoat covered with dust, dark blue baggy suit pants from the Salvation Army, pink suede belt, pointed black forties dress shoes scuffed up, holes in the soles, no socks, no hat, long pronounced sideburns, "Gene Vincent" hairdo, two days' growth of beard, bad teeth

SAUL KIMMER: late forties, Hollywood producer, pink and white flower print sports shirt, white sports coat with matching polyester stacks, black and white loafers

MOM: early sixties, mother of the brothers, small woman, conservative white skirt and matching jacket, red shoulder bag, two pieces of matching red luggage

SCENE: All nine scenes take place on the same set; a kitchen and adjoining alcove of an older home in a Southern California suburb, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. The kitchen takes up most of the playing area to stage left. The kitchen consists of a sink, upstage center, surrounded by counter space, a wall telephone, cupboards, and a small window just above it bordered by neat yellow curtains. Stage left of sink is a stove. Stage right, a refrigerator. The alcove adjoins the kitchen to stage right. There is no wall division or door to the alcove. It is open and easily accessible from the kitchen and defined only by the objects in it: a small round glass breakfast table mounted on white iron legs, two matching white iron chairs set across from each other. The two exterior walls of the alcove which prescribe a corner in the upstage right are composed of many small windows, beginning from a solid wall about three feet high and extending to the ceiling. The windows look out to bushes and citrus trees. The alcove is filled with all sorts of house plants in various pots, mostly Boston ferns hanging in planters at different levels. The floor of the alcove is composed of green synthetic grass.

All entrances and exits are made stage left from the kitchen. There is no door. The actors simply go off and come onto the playing area.

NOTE ON SET AND COSTUME: The set should be constructed realistically with no attempt to distort its dimensions, shapes, objects, or colors. No objects should be introduced which might draw special attention to themselves other than the props demanded by the script. If a stylistic "concept" is grafted onto the set design it will only serve to confuse the evolution of the characters' situation, which is the most important focus of the play.

Likewise, the costumes should be exactly representative of who the characters are and not added onto for the sake of making a point to the audience.

NOTE ON SOUND: The Coyote of Southern California has a distinct yapping, doglike bark, similar to a Hyena. This yapping grows more intense and maniacal as the pack grows in numbers, which is usually the case when they lure and kill pets from suburban yards. The sense of growing frenzy in the pack should be felt in the background, particularly in Scenes 7 and 8. In any case, these Coyotes never make the long, mournful, solitary howl of the Hollywood stereotype.

The sound of Crickets can speak for itself.

These sounds should also be treated realistically even though they sometimes grow in volume and numbers.

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