BroadwayWorld has just learned that playwright, actor, author, screenwriter, and director Sam Shepard has passed away. Shepard, who had been ill with ALS for some time, died peacefully on July 27 at his home in Kentucky, surrounded by his children and sisters. He was 73 years old.
Survivors include his children, Jesse, Hannah and Walker Shepard, and his sisters, Sandy and Roxanne Rogers.
"The family requests privacy at this difficult time," said the spokesman for the family, Chris Boneau.
Funeral arrangements remain private. Plans for a public memorial have not yet been determined.
Shepard is the author of forty-four plays as well as several books of short stories, essays, and memoirs. Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983).
Shepard received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a master American dramatist in 2009. New York described him as "the greatest American playwright of his generation."
His many plays include: Cowboys, The Rock Garden, Chicago, Icarus's Mother, 4-H Club, Red Cross, La Turista, Cowboys #2, Forensic & the Navigators, The Unseen Hand, Oh! Calcutta! (contributed sketches), The Holy Ghostly, Operation Sidewinder, Mad Dog Blues, Back Bog Beast Bait, Cowboy Mouth, The Tooth of Crime, Geography of a Horse Dreamer, Action, Angel City, Suicide in B Flat, Inacoma, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, Tongues, True West, Savage/Love, Fool for Love, A Lie of the Mind, A Short Life of Trouble, Baby Boom, States of Shock, Simpatico, Tooth of Crime, Eyes for Consuela, The Late Henry Moss, The God of Hell, Kicking a Dead Horse, Ages of the Moon, Heartless and A Particle of Dread.
Shepard's plays are chiefly known for their bleak, poetic, often surrealist elements, black humor and rootless characters living on the outskirts of American society. His style has evolved over the years, from the absurdism of his early Off-Off-Broadway work to the realism of Buried Child and Curse of the Starving Class (both 1978).
Shepard began his acting career in earnest when he was cast as the handsome land baron in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978), opposite Richard Gere and Brooke Adams. This led to other important film roles, including that of Cal, Ellen Burstyn's love interest, in the film "Resurrection" (1980), and most notably his portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983). The latter performance earned Shepard an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. By 1986, his play Fool for Love was getting a film adaptation directed by Robert Altman, in which Shepard played the lead role; his play A Lie of the Mind was being performed Off-Broadway with an all-star cast (including Harvey Keitel and Geraldine Page); and Shepard was subsequently working steadily as a film actor - all of these achievements put him on the cover of Newsweek.
Throughout the years, Shepard has done a considerable amount of teaching on writing plays and other aspects of theatre. His classes and seminars have occurred at various theatre workshops, festivals, and universities. Shepard was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1986.
Photo Credit: Gregory Costanzo