What time period does Sam Shepard's "Buried Child" take place?
It does not say in the script at all. It was written in 1978 and some websites say that it takes place in the 1970's, but many of my classmates (I am writing a thesis on this play) got the impression that it was set in the 1950's. I just want to be certain of the time period because I don't want to write a paper that is completely unrelated to the true time period.
Shepard's play, a striking metaphor about fertility, takes place in a very rural environment (probably the source of your classmates' impression), and is not imbedded in a social present that limits the mise-en-scene to a particular decade, as long as it is the 20th century. The dramatic term some authors use in their notes is "the Present," meaning that the play can be staged in any contemporary setting. Since there are no references to, for example, technology or politics, the decade of its actual writing is sufficient. The point is that Shepard is bringing into the 20th century the age-old comparison (think Demeter) of earth fertility to the human cycle of life and death; the "burial" is compared to "planting" in the audience's mind. If your thesis statement centers on the importance of the play's time-setting, you are on a fruitless quest (pun intended).
Thank you so much for your help! The professor says that the paper will consist of "researching this play and coming up with a thesis or argument which explores what this play tells us about the society of the time."
I completely understand, and agree with, the fact that it is not intended to be a specific time period, so this should be an interesting paper...