Sam Shepard Additional Biography

Biography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Born Samuel Shepard Rogers VII, on an army base in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, on November 5, 1943, Sam Shepard’s early years were marked by repeated moves from one place to another: South Dakota, Utah, Florida, Guam, and eventually Southern California. Shepard’s father was severely wounded during World War II, became an alcoholic, and progressively withdrew from the family until he became a desert-dwelling, storytelling recluse; Samuel Rogers VI, the playwright’s father, died after being struck by a car in 1983. Shepard recalls that his mother, Jane Schook Rogers, would fire her army-issued Luger pistol at the Japanese soldiers sneaking out of the jungle on Guam in the years following World War II. After Shepard’s father retired from the army, the family moved to an avocado ranch in the San Bernardino valley in Southern California, where Shepard spent his adolescent years. In 1962, Shepard joined a barnstorming acting company with a religiously based repertory, the Bishop’s Repertory Company. When the company reached New York, Shepard, nineteen years old, dropped out of the company and into the Lower East Side bohemian lifestyle, busing tables at the Village Gate, dabbling with acting, doing drugs, and running the streets with Charles Mingus, Jr., an old California friend.

In 1964, the twin bill of Shepard’s first two plays, the original Cowboys and The Rock Garden, premiered at one of Off-Off-Broadway’s most important...

(The entire section is 497 words.)

Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Samuel Shepard Rogers VII has been compared to Eugene O’Neill in theatrical range and power. He is the son of Army Air Force bomber pilot Samuel Shepard Rogers and Jane Schook Rogers. Between 1943 and 1955, the family moved often from army post to army post, including a stay in Guam. They finally settled in California, residing during Shepard’s teenage years on an avocado and sheep ranch in Duarte. Shepard found some aspects of the ranching life attractive but chafed against the ordinariness of his relationship with his parents and the tedium of rural society. He became enamored of motion pictures and their heroes, took up jazz drumming, and read Beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso. In 1962 he auditioned for the Bishop’s Company Repertory Players and began a six-month tour as an itinerant actor, ending up in New York City’s East Village in 1963. There he secured a job at the Village Gate, which introduced him to the country’s best jazz musicians and to Ralph Cook, who launched the Theatre Genesis, as well as Sam Shepard’s career, in the 1960’s.{$S[A]Rogers, Samuel Shepard, VII;Shepard, Sam}

The atmosphere of East Village and the impetus of Off-Off-Broadway theater perfectly nurtured Shepard’s eclectic talent. In 1964 he made his debut as a playwright with Cowboys and The Rock Garden, two one-act plays that introduced several of his themes and stylistic techniques. In The Rock Garden he presents a father who revels in his lifeless arrangement of rocks, whereas the son builds a counterpointed description of his sexual techniques with women until it subsumes the father’s drone in an explosion of metaphors. This conflict of generations, brought forth through metaphorical language that rises from a dark, nearly bare stage, is typical of Shepard’s early plays. The open stage requires audience members to exercise their imaginations in order to “complete” Shepard’s dramatic scenes.

Taking his lead from the Beat generation and from jazz improvisation, Shepard creates “transformational” characters, who act themselves out through disruptions, explosions, contradictions, and shifting realities. Often they fear the loss of their individuality because of some unnameable force, and they move and talk rapidly in an attempt to invent themselves as larger-than-life figures. As a member of the first generation of playwrights to grow up under the influence of rock music and television, Shepard is preoccupied with various mythic models of the mass media—the cowboy, the Indian, the rock star, the gangster, the film star, the gothic monster, the business magnate—and with the desire to escape the traps of body, geography, or system.

Many of Shepard’s characters do escape or transform themselves on the stage. For example, several in Operation Sidewinder emerge...

(The entire section is 1167 words.)

Biography

(Drama for Students)

One of the most famous playwrights in contemporary America, Sam Shepard’s fame comes in part from what some critics have called a...

(The entire section is 684 words.)

Biography

(Drama for Students)

Sam Shepard was born Samuel Shepard Rogers, Jr., in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, on November 5, 1943. Because his father was in the military,...

(The entire section is 570 words.)

Biography

(Drama for Students)

Sam Shepard Published by Gale Cengage

Like the plays he writes, Sam Shepard's life and career have been unpredictable, wide-ranging, well-traveled, and, ultimately,...

(The entire section is 605 words.)

Biography

(Drama for Students)

Sam Shepard Published by Gale Cengage

Shepard was born Samuel Shepard Rogers III on November 5, 1943, in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He was the son of Samuel Shepard and Jane Elaine...

(The entire section is 559 words.)