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...
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