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Sam Shepard / Samuel Beckett – a Tribute

August 2, 2017 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday.

Much has been said in print and in video about Sam Shepard since his death on July 27, 2016 at the age of 73.

In this post we wish to celebrate his life as an Actor, Playwright, and with a brief comparison of the theme and purpose of the works of Sam Shepard, and Samuel Beckett.

 

Sam Shepard – Actor

The coolness and talent of Sam Shepard as an actor is displayed in simple the clip above.

Sam Shepard – Playwright

“Sam Shepard’s plays are performed on and off Broadway and in all the major regional American theatres. They are also widely performed and studied in Europe, particularly in Britain, Germany and France, finding both a popular and scholarly audience. A leader of the avant-garde in contemporary American theatre since his earliest work. Sam’s plays are not easy to categorize. They combine wild humor, grotesque satire, myth and a sparse, haunting language to present a subversive view of American life. His settings are often a kind of nowhere, notionally grounded in the dusty heart of the vast American Plains; his characters are typically loners, drifters caught between a mythical past and the mechanized present; his work often concerns deeply troubled families.

Before he was thirty, Shepard had over thirty plays produced in New York. In his works Shepard has repeatedly examined the moral anomie and spiritual starvation that characterize the world of his drama.

Sam began his career as a playwright in New York in 1964 with the Theatre Genesis production of two one-act plays, COWBOYS and THE ROCK GARDEN  at St. Mark’s Church-in-the Bowery. Their lack of conventional structure and the manic language of their long monologues offend critics from uptown papers. Some find the plays derivative of Samuel Beckett and other European dramatists. But Michael Smith of THE VILLAGE VOICE hails them as “distinctly American” and “genuinely original,” and declares their author full of promise.

By 1980, he was the most produced playwright in America after Tennessee Williams.

Over the past forty years, Sam has written over 45 plays, eleven of which have won Obie Awards. In 1979 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for BURIED CHILD. In 1986 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1992 he received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy.  He was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1994.” (sam-shepard.com)

Sam Shepard/ Samuel Beckett

A comparison of the images of Sam Shepard and Samuel Beckett, above, is quite striking.  However, the works of both playwrights may bear a similar striking similarity in theme and purpose. The quotes below are not meant to satisfy any “academic standard;” we leave that to the work of scholars.

Sam Shepard

In high school, Sam Shepard “read Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, an experience that says transformed him … In reviewing Shepard’s initial offering, Village Voice critic Michael Smith wrote: “The plays are difficult to categorize, and I’m not sure it would be valuable to try…. Shepard is still feeling his way, working with an intuitive approach to language and dramatic structure and moving into an area between ritual and naturalism, where character transcends psychology, fantasy breaks down literalism, and the patterns of ordinariness have their own lives. His is a gestalt theater which evokes the existence behind behavior. Shepard clearly is aware of previous work in this mode, mostly by Europeans, but his voice is distinctly American and his own.” (theatredatabase.com.)

Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett ” dealt with human beings in such extreme situations not because he was interested in the sordid and diseased aspects of life but because he concentrated on the essential aspects of human experience. The subject matter of so much of the world’s literature—the social relations between individuals, their manners and possessions, their struggles for rank and position, or the conquest of sexual objects—appeared to Beckett as mere external trappings of existence, the accidental and superficial aspects that mask the basic problems and the basic anguish of the human condition. The basic questions for Beckett seemed to be these: How can we come to terms with the fact that, without ever having asked for it, we have been thrown into the world, into being?” (britannica.com)

sam-shepard-2

Sam Shepard, 1943 – 2017

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