When Sam Shepard died July 27, most of the national news outlets remembered him primarily as a movie and TV actor, though they did acknowledge they he was a Pulitzer-winning playwright for “Buried Child” in 1979.
Denizens of the 1970s New York arts demimonde also knew Shepard as a rock drummer for the Holy Modal Rounders, a contributor to Ken Tynan’s lascivious revue “Oh! Calcutta!” and the screenwriter of the arthouse flicks “Zabriskie Point” and “Me and My Brother.” Other cool credits buried in Shepard’s long career are some blistering short stories and essays, his audiobook recitation of Spalding Gray’s “Life Interrupted” and his co-writing of Bob Dylan’s epic song “Brownsville Girl.”
But where Shepard loomed largest was in the off-Broadway and regional theater realms. Of the more than 40 plays he wrote between 1965 and 2014, only three have been seen in Broadway theaters, and even those had been off-Broadway or regional hits first.
In Connecticut, the most-seen Shepard play may well be “Curse of the Starving Class.” That’s the one with a live lamb, and an actor peeing onstage. The Yale Rep produced it in both 1980 and 2000, and the Long Wharf Theatre did it in 2013. Yale Rep was an early champion of Shepard’s, with the U.S. premiere of Shepard’s “Geography of a Horse Dreamer” in 1974, but an earlier attempt to do his first three-act play “Operation Sidewinder” at…
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