Sam Shepard (November 5, 1943 – July 27, 2017) was one of the United States’ most prolific, most celebrated, and most honored playwrights. Writing exclusively for the Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theater, Shepard has nevertheless won eleven Obie Awards (for Red Cross, Chicago, Icarus’s Mother, Forensic and the Navigators, La Turista, Melodrama Play, Cowboys #2, The Tooth of Crime, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, and Fool for Love). In 1979, he received a Pulitzer Prize for Buried Child. His screenplay for Wim Wenders’s film Paris, Texas won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and Shepard himself received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Colonel Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983). A Lie of the Mind was named the outstanding new play of the 1985-1986 season by the Drama Desk. In 1998 Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) Great Performances devoted an hour-long TV program to Shepard’s life and plays.
Nearly all Sam Shepard’s plays examine the functions (and dysfunctions) of the relationships between individuals that constitute either family structures or social structures that approximate family structures—close friendships or tight-knit business alliances. The conflict between the two halves of what can be considered a single unit (brother and brother, father and son, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend) as they struggle either for supremacy or for survival amid surrounding pressures can be found at the core of most of Shepard’s plays. Further, his principal characters tend not only to be alienated from their immediate circumstances but also to be victimized by their drive toward a destructive self-isolation. The wake of devastation left by figures who are incapable of bridging the abysses they have created shapes the central conflict in many of Shepard’s plays.
The pulsating rhythms of those conflicts can be tracked through Shepard’s unique use of dramatic language. Instead of the series of natural exchanges between characters found in plays constructed on the principle of mimetic realism, the language in Shepard’s plays reflects his extensive musical background. His dialogue ranges from realistic banter to highly metaphoric and figurative speech, to the beat and patter of rock and roll, to free-form, yet highly complex, jazz-like improvisational riffs. Characters frequently disrupt the flow of the dialogue with abrupt shifts in voice (such as Hoss’s switch from the street talk of a rock and roll star to the argot of an old Delta blues singer in The Tooth of Crime), sudden shifts in character (such as Chet’s and Stu’s metamorphosis from modern urban cowboys to old-time prospectors in Cowboys #2), or unexpected irruptions into convoluted soliloquies that arrest the flow of the action (such as Wesley’s recollection of his drunken father’s return in Curse of the Starving Class). Even when it is primarily realistic, the plays’ language is highly figurative, establishing a layer of metaphoric significance that points toward each play’s thematic center.
The settings of Shepard’s plays also contribute figurative significance to their dominant themes. The action often unfolds against a backdrop composed of commonplace materials such as bathtubs, old wrecked cars, kitchen tables, refrigerators, living-room sofas, hotel beds, children’s bedrooms, or hospital rooms, but these articles suggest an environment that is primarily metaphoric, not realistic. Shepard uses the icons of American pop culture to represent the mythic landscape of the American psyche, thereby demonstrating how personal identity is so often assembled out of the bits and pieces of the social iconography that dominates American culture. His figurative settings also underscore the predominant tensions dramatized, as in Curse of the Starving Class, where the lack of food in the refrigerator represents the lack of love and nurture in the family. Because Shepard is primarily interested in depicting figurative conflicts and actions, he is free to draw on a wide variety of materials in the physical setting, as well as the dialogue, in order to create his mythic landscapes. Hence, Shepard’s plays are filled with borrowings from, and allusions to, what he sees as the core of the United States’ mythology: rock and roll and country-western music, Hollywood and films of all kinds (Westerns in particular), the trappings of middle-class suburbia, the physical geography of the West (the desert in particular), science fiction, and the conflict between generations that shredded American society and culture during the Vietnam era.
Although Shepard has spoken of his personal aversion for the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the pulsing beat of his scintillating dramatic language, the resonant depth of the mythic images that permeate his plays, and the unwavering intensity of the conflicts that give his plays an unmatched toughness all have their ultimate source in the turmoil both caused and embraced by the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll generation. The center of Shepard’s work moves steadily and inexorably toward a distinctly American version of the domestic drama defined by his predecessors Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, and Eugene O’Neill, but the conflicts between siblings, husbands and wives, or parents and children are consistently played out against the backdrop of the icons that created the American national identity during the Vietnam era: cowboys, rock and roll music, Hollywood films, middle-class suburbia, science fiction, and the West. It is Shepard’s consistent ability, however, to use the particular to suggest the universal that indicates his greatness. In a play written by Shepard, the foreground and shading of a conflict between father and son will inevitably be couched in terms of rock music, cars, gunfights, and liquor, but the outline of that conflict is as old and as evocative as Sophocles’ Oidipous Tyrannos (c. 429 b.c.e.; Oedipus Tyrannus, 1715).
Shepard’s earliest extant play, The Rock Garden, sketches many of the themes that resonate throughout his work. In the first of the play’s three scenes, Shepard defines the estrangement between generations: A Boy and a Girl sit in silence, sipping milk, while a Man, absorbed in his magazine, ignores them. In the second scene, the Boy signals his alienation from the mother figure (the Woman) by donning more and more clothing, which metaphorically suggests the barriers erected between the family members. The third scene repeats this figurative action, with the mother replaced by the father figure, the Man, who bores his son almost to death. Finally, the Boy shatters the superficial complacency of the relationships with a graphic and intensely personal recounting of his sexual preferences and prowess. Thus, the rock garden metaphorically defines this typical Shepardian family: sterile, arid, and empty.
Most of the one-act plays that Shepard wrote for the Off-Off-Broadway theater during the 1960’s explore themes that emerged in The Rock Garden. Chicago examines the dynamics of isolation. The alienation of Stu—who reposes in a bathtub naked from the waist up but wearing jeans and tennis shoes—from the other cast members cannot be overcome by the figurative barriers that Stu creates through his active imagination. In 4-H Club, three men, Joe, John, and Bob, take turns imposing improvised antics on the other two; in Red Cross, Jim, a tourist infested with crab lice, imposes imaginative scenarios on two women: Carol ( Jim’s girlfriend) and a hotel maid. All three plays present characters who are markedly alienated from their selves and their surroundings; moreover, Shepard suggests that the imposition of personal desires on others leads typically to irreversible alienation. Cowboys #2 is perhaps Shepard’s best depiction of the ability of the imagination to assert a separate reality, as Chet and Stu, two urban cowboys, take turns imposing imaginative vistas on each other. For example, Chet assumes the voice and posture of an Old West prospector and addresses Stu as Mel, who plays along. The two urban cowboys and old-time prospectors rollick through a number of fanciful incidents: calisthenics, a rainstorm, an Indian attack, a descant on the decay of the modern West, and a trek across the desert. The play suggests that the imaginative world is just as “real” as the actual world.
In a series of plays from the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s, Shepard explores isolation and alienation by employing metaphoric sets, characterizations, and actions. Icarus’s Mother depicts a conflict between five metaphorically “grounded” characters and a jet pilot—a transcendent Icarus figure. When the two females ( Jill and Pat) respond to the pilot sexually, the pilot reacts sexually, looping, rolling, climbing, and finally plunging to an explosive climax in the ocean. The play suggests that sexual desire is both irresistible and destructive, that permanent transcendence is not possible, and that males and females cannot communicate successfully. Forensic and the Navigators examines the American antiwar movement of the 1960’s. Two would-be revolutionaries, Forensic (whose name suggests talk but no action) and Emmet, ineptly attempt to chart out a revolutionary action. When the radicals’ hideout is suddenly invaded by California Highway Patrol-like exterminators, the fundamental distinctions between the revolutionaries and the forces of oppression progressively disintegrate, since neither side is capable of significant action.
Shepard’s first full-length play, La Turista, examines the inexorable decay of American society. Set in aMexican hotel room for the first act, La Turista depicts the inability of two middle-class Americans, Kent and Salem, to overcome their cultural and spiritual sickness, symbolized by the dysentery they have contracted. Kent and Salem’s internal malaise contrasts sharply with the vitality of the Mexican Boy, who symbolizes both the underdeveloped nations’ peoples exploited by American materialism and the son caught in an Oedipal conflict with his father. Moreover, Kent’s symbolic role as the epitome of American cultural dominance is undercut by Kent’s ironic attack on the obsessions that have made the United States irrecoverably weak. After Kent faints on seeing the Boy in bed with Salem, the remainder of the first act consists of an attempt to revive Kent (who is described as dead), which involves a Witch Doctor, his son, and sacrificial chickens.
The second act of La Turista duplicates the first in action, although it employs a separate metaphorical structure. Set in a drab American hotel room, Kent’s revival continues. TheWitch Doctor and the Boy from the first act enter, dressed now like country doctors from the CivilWar era. Kent’s disease is the result of a psychological and emotional starvation endemically linked to the structure of the typical American family. Kent and the Doctor become enmeshed in a mutually imposed Frankenstein scenario that recalls the father/son conflicts of the first act with Kent in the role of monster/son and the Doctor as the creator/father. As the imaginative play reaches its peak, Kent transforms into the monster and escapes his repressive society by crashing through the upstage wall, leaving a cutout of his body. La Turista compellingly suggests that the barren American family and its disposable society are incurably diseased structures that produce generation after generation of monsters.
The Unseen Hand and Operation Sidewinder
The Unseen Hand and Operation Sidewinder also explore unresolvable conflicts. The Unseen Hand, a cross between a sciencefiction adventure and a television Western, pits Willie the Space Freak and the Morphan brothers (a trio of Old West outlaws) against the High Commission of Nogoland with its powerful Unseen Hand, a force that squeezes the mind. The conflict unfolds on a stage cluttered with the detritus of the American consumer society (symbolized by the play’s setting: Azusa, everything from A to Z in the United States). Nogoland and Azusa are but two different names for the tyrannizing force of established culture that opposes those who seek true freedom. Willie’s ability to escape the Unseen Hand’s power seems to be a qualified endorsement of revolutionary action. Operation Sidewinder, Shepard’s big-budget Broadway production, develops the structure sketched in The Unseen Hand.
The plot brings together a group of revolutionaries consisting of Mickey Free (an Indian), a hippie known as the Young Man (who symbolizes all the impatience, violence, and frustrations of American youths during the 1960’s and 1970’s), and Blood (a Black Panther type), all of whom struggle against the forces of political oppression led by a Central Intelligence Agency goon (Captain Bovine), a mad scientist (Dr. Vector), and Dr. Vector’s gigantic and deadly missile/computer shaped like a sidewinder rattlesnake. When Mickey Free liberates Honey, the play’s only significant female, by cutting off the Sidewinder’s head, the action suggests that violent political confrontation can lead to true liberation, but the remainder of the play does not fulfill that promise.
Shepard uses satiric language and irony to undercut the pretentiousness of both the anti-establishment and the establishment. Only Mickey Free’s desire to use the Sidewinder’s head as a source of spiritual renewal provides a viable alternative to the sterile and debilitating social mythologies embraced by both the revolutionaries and the establishment. The play ends with a pyrotechnic encounter between a group of Desert Tactical troops who futilely discharge their machine guns into Mickey Free, the Young Man, Honey, and a group of Hopi Indians who are caught up in the spirituality of the snake dance and have thereby achieved a higher level of existence. Although the play preaches too much, Operation Sidewinder is perhaps Shepard’s most hopeful offering, suggesting that the futility of political and generational conflict can at last be transcended.
Geography of a Horse Dreamer
Although Geography of a Horse Dreamer is on the surface a play about a group of gamblers who are trying to squeeze information from Cody, an artistically minded young man with the ability to dream the winners of horse or dog races, it is really an extended metaphor that reproaches the tendency of a culture to treat its most gifted artists like disposable goods, demanding that they produce more and more until the artists themselves are consumed. Cody’s abilities steadily wither, since he cannot meet the demands of the Mafia-like gangsters, until he is liberated from them by his shotgun-wielding brothers from the West in a violent scene at the play’s end.
Angel City also examines the role of the artist in society. Rabbit, a filmscript fixer, is hired by a motion-picture studio to repair the script of the company’s latest big-budget disaster film. The line between films and the “real,” however, is a tenuous distinction in Angel City. Miss Scoons, the type of the vacuous American female, desires beyond all else to become the people she sees on the silver screen since she believes their lives to be more “real” than hers. Further, the great disaster that Rabbit is supposed to script becomes the cataclysm that destroys both the world without and the world within the play; Angel City’s apocalyptic ending suggests that the American film industry, and the mythology it creates, are primary sources of the United States’ cultural and spiritual corruption.
The Tooth of Crime
The Tooth of Crime is best described as a rock-and-roll gunfight between a top-of-the-charts but aging rocker, Hoss, and his up-and-coming rival, Crow. Set in a stylized future where rockers mark out territory through acts of violence much like members of rival gangs stake out their turf, The Tooth of Crime examines the dynamics by which males relate to one another when establishing their fundamental identities. As Hoss and Crow square off in the musical battle that dominates the play’s second act, it becomes clear that Hoss and Crow, like so many of Shepard’s other male characters, are locked into the battle of identity that pits father against son. Hoss quickly recognizes that “father” and “son” are locked into a generational cycle in which the younger will inevitably usurp the place of the elder, and the play’s conclusion, in which Crow takes possession of Hoss’s entourage, goods, and status, suggests that father and son are locked in an endless cycle in which the younger generation is doomed to repeat patterns of its forebears.
Curse of the Starving Class
The cyclical pattern etched into the relationship between the generations provides the dominant structure for what have been called Shepard’s “family” plays: Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, True West, Fool for Love, and A Lie of the Mind. The “curse” in Curse of the Starving Class is quite clearly the curse of generational repetition: Children inevitably duplicate the actions of their parents. The natures of the parents are planted within the psyches of the children and emerge in actions that emphasize the familial curse passed down from generation to generation. Weston, the father, recalls the poison of his father’s alcoholism; Wesley, the son, provides a chilling account of Weston’s drunken attack on the home’s locked front door; and in the third act, Wesley dons Weston’s discarded clothes and admits that his father’s essence is beginning to control him. Ella, the mother, passes on to her daughter Emma the curse of menstruation as well as the mother’s desire to escape her family.
The curse of starvation is overtly symbolized by the perpetually empty refrigerator, which underscores the family’s physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual starvation. Further, the curse of denial pervades all the play’s relationships and colors almost every action. Clearly beset from within, this typical Shepardian family is also beset from without by those forces that Shepard believes threaten the mythic (and therefore true)West: the march of progress that wants to destroy the natural world and replace it with shopping malls, freeways, and tract housing developments. There is, obviously, no salvation for this family. Weston runs off to Mexico with the money he has received from the sale of the farm; Emma is blown up inWeston’s car by thugs who are looking to extort money from Weston; Ella refuses to acknowledge what happens right in front of her and repeatedly addressesWesley asWeston;Wesley completes the transformation into his father by adopting his father’s attitudes and behaviors. The anecdote that Ella and Wesley jointly tell to close the play becomes the play’s second great symbol: An eagle and a tomcat, tearing at each other in a midair struggle, crash to earth. Like that pair of animals, there is no salvation or escape that awaits the family in Curse of the Starving Class, only inevitable destruction.
Shepard’s vision of the family in Buried Child is even darker; long and deeply buried familial secrets constitute the hereditary curse in Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize winner. The family patriarch, Dodge, spends all of his time wrapped in an old blanket on the sofa, staring at the television. His wife, Halie, speaks at her husband (not to him) of trivial matters when she is not busy soliciting the local clergyman, Father Dewis. Their eldest son, Tilden, is a burned out and mentally defective semimute who brings armload after armload of corn onto the stage. The second son, Bradley, had one leg cut off by a chain saw and now spends most of his time wrestling with Dodge for control of the blanket and television set or threatening to cut Dodge’s hair. In a series of statements that recalls the pattern of denial that occurs in Curse of the Starving Class, Dodge refuses to acknowledge that Bradley is his own son, claiming that his flesh and blood are buried in the backyard. To complicate matters, Halie frequently mentions yet another son, Ansel, who (according to Halie and Halie alone) was a hero and basketball star. Into the midst of this dysfunctional home comes Vince, Tilden’s son, who wants to reestablish his family ties, and Shelly, Vince’s girlfriend. Tilden, however, refuses to recognize Vince, claiming that the son he once had is now dead and buried.
The denial of family connections suggests both the physical and the emotional rejection that pervades the home in Buried Child. On a physical level, the dead child refers to Halie and Tilden’s incestuously conceived child who was killed by Dodge and buried in the field behind the house. Metaphorically, the dead child represents all the children in the family, all of whom are dead to their father and mother and to one another. Unable to gain recognition from any of his progenitors, Vince stomps out one evening and goes on an alcoholic binge, leaving Shelly at the mercy of Bradley, who menaces her sexually. When Vince returns the next morning, thoroughly drunk, his open violence provides Halie and Dodge with the clue to Vince’s identity, once again suggesting that behavior is mechanically passed from generation to generation. When Dodge dies, Vince proclaims himself the family’s new patriarch just as Tilden enters carrying the exhumed body of the buried child. The play’s highly equivocal ending juxtaposes the hope symbolized by the rebirth of a new generation against despairing images of denial, disease, and death.
True West explores the conflict between two brothers: Lee, a reclusive and violent thief who has been living in the Mojave desert, and Austin, a suburban Yuppie and screenwriter. Austin is trying to close a motion-picture deal with a Hollywood movie mogul, Saul Kimmer, but when Kimmer hears Lee’s impromptu outline for a motion picture about two cowboys chasing each other across the plains of Texas, Kimmer decides to drop Austin’s project and develop Lee’s. True West, in addition to analyzing the fate of the artist in a manner that recalls Angel City and Geography of a Horse Dreamer, questions which version of the West is indeed true. Lee claims that the desert, with its brutally harsh environment that forces its denizens to live by their wits and strength, is the true West, while Austin claims that suburban California, with its shopping malls, highways, and tract housing, constitutes the realWest. Further, the numerous references to famous Western films suggest that the only true West is Hollywood’s West.
The pressure of Kimmer’s decision to pursue Lee’s screenplay causes the brothers to switch roles: Austin, responding to Lee’s taunts, steals a variety of toasters from the neighbors; Lee slaves over the typewriter roughing out the dialogue. The reversal of roles indicates the fundamental similarities that bind the brothers. On the abrupt return of their Mother from Alaska, (who, showing rare good sense for a Shepardian mother, claims to recognize nothing and immediately leaves), Lee and Austin square off in a physically violent but unresolved confrontation. True West not only questions the mythology that defines the American West but also probes the violence spawned by the fundamental psychological and behavioral equivalence of family members.
Fool for Love
Shepard also examines the equivalency of siblings in Fool for Love, replacing the brother-brother conflict of True West with a love/hate relationship between half-brother and half-sister, Eddie and May. Reared in different towns by different mothers, Eddie and May meet, fall in love, and begin their incestuous relationship before discovering that they share the same father, the Old Man. Although the friction dramatized in Eddie and May’s emotional and sexual relationship points toward Shepard’s signature characterization of men and women as two opposite animals who cannot coexist, Fool for Love also examines how the same event is often shaped and reshaped by different individuals to create widely divergent memories and understandings of what happened. Eddie and May do not share the same recollection of their meeting and cannot come to terms with the implications of their relationship; moreover, none of their stories agrees with versions of the same incidents told by the Old Man, who at times seems to be Eddie’s and May’s mental projection but who at other times seems to be an independent character. Despite her attempt to establish a different lifestyle with Martin, the new man in her life, May is as inextricably bound to Eddie as he is to her. Even though Eddie leaves at the end of the play and May believes that he is not coming back, the play suggests that the audience has witnessed but one episode in a continually repeating cycle in which Eddie and May are victimized by their repetitive actions just as surely asWesley andWeston were by theirs in Curse of the Starving Class.
A Lie of the Mind
A Lie of the Mind explores the dysfunctional structure of the American family as well as the delusions that individuals impose on others and themselves. Beaten nearly to death by her husband Jake, Beth creates lies of the mind— fictions that permit her to survive. The play suggests that each character assembles a personal reality in his or her mind. For example, Jake’s mother, Lorraine, blocks out the pain of being abandoned by her husband by pretending indifference; Beth’s father, Baylor, hides from his family by erecting a facade of the crusty frontier hunter; Jake represses all of his memories of the race inMexico that led to his father’s death. Further, A Lie of the Mind suggests that the “two opposite animals,” the male and the female, even when yoked together by an irresistible and consuming love, are torn apart by the violence of their fundamental incompatibility. Both Beth and Jake are trapped by their love—neither can be complete without the other—and their obsessive need to be reunited thrusts Beth into delusions of marriage and propels Jake to Montana to find Beth. Their drive for reunification, however, at last proves futile. After kissing Beth, Jake exits into the darkness, and Beth compulsively turns to Jake’s wounded brother, Frankie. A Lie of the Mind suggests that the American family, like Beth, is fundamentally crippled.
States of Shock
States of Shock is a heavily symbolic exercise in antiwar sentiment that pits a demented, saber-waving colonel against Stubbs, a wheelchair-bound armedservices veteran (who still has a conspicuously large and bloody hole in his chest) in a battle over the symbols and myths that permeate and define large-scale war. Set in a thoroughly American family restaurant, States of Shock exposes all the contradictions that surround the concept of war in post-Vietnam America without offering any more than the violence of the inevitable collisions.
Simpatico concerns two Californian friends, Carter and Vinnie, who fifteen years earlier had used Vinnie’s wife Rosie to blackmail Ames, a horse racing official, into overlooking a race track scam involving look-alike horses. Carter and Rosie then ran off to Kentucky together where they became wealthy. Vinnie uses photographs of Rosie with Ames to extort money from Carter, who returns to California to retrieve the photographs. As in True West, the main characters undergo role reversals during the play’s progress. Carter becomes an alcoholic ne’er-do-well while Vinnie shaves, puts on a suit, and flies to Kentucky to seek his fortune.
Eyes for Consuela
Eyes for Consuela is based on the short story, “The Blue Bouquet,” by Octavio Paz. Henry, a middle-class American whose marriage has disintegrated, flees to a decrepit hotel in a Mexican jungle. There he meets a philosophical Mexican bandit Amado, who threatens to cut out Henry’s blue eyes as a gift to his wife Consuela. Henry insists that his eyes are brown, not blue, but this does not impress Amado. Throughout two acts the men argue, drink tequila, and trade life histories, as Amado contends that Henry’s despair is an example of anxiety caused by the complexity of American civilization.
The Late Henry Moss
The Late Henry Moss begins with two brothers, Ray and Earl, sharing a whiskey bottle and memories of their father, who lies dead in the bed behind them. Ray sets out to discover how his father died by interrogating everyone who knows anything about his last day. The story is told in flashbacks as Ray interviews the taxi driver who took Henry Moss on a fatal fishing trip; Esteban, a kindly next-door neighbor; and Conchalla, a sensuous Mexican woman who shared a drinking binge with Henry.
Cowboys, pr. 1964 (one act); The Rock Garden, pr. 1964, pb. 1972 (one act); Up to Thursday, pr. 1964; Chicago, pr. 1965, pb. 1967; Dog, pr. 1965; Icarus’s Mother, pr. 1965, pb. 1967; Rocking Chair, pr. 1965; 4-H Club, pr. 1965, pb. 1971; Fourteen Hundred Thousand, pr. 1966, pb. 1967; Melodrama Play, pr. 1966, pb. 1967; Red Cross, pr. 1966, pb. 1967; La Turista, pr. 1966, pb. 1968; Cowboys #2, pr. 1967, pb. 1971; Forensic and the Navigators, pr. 1967, pb. 1969; The Unseen Hand, pr., pb. 1969; Operation Sidewinder, pb. 1969, pr. 1970; Shaved Splits, pr. 1969, pb. 1971; The Holy Ghostly, pr. 1970, pb. 1971; Back Bog Beast Bait, pr., pb. 1971; Cowboy Mouth, pr., pb. 1971 (with Patti Smith); The Mad Dog Blues, pr. 1971, pb. 1972; Nightwalk, pr., pb. 1972 (with Megan Terry and Jean-Claude van Itallie); The Tooth of Crime, pr. 1972, pb. 1974; Action, pr. 1974, pb. 1975; Geography of a Horse Dreamer, pr., pb. 1974; Little Ocean, pr. 1974; Killer’s Head, pr. 1975, pb. 1976; The Sad Lament of Pecos Bill on the Eve of Killing His Wife, pr. 1975, pb. 1983; Angel City, pr., pb. 1976; Curse of the Starving Class, pb. 1976, pr. 1977; Suicide in B Flat, pr. 1976, pb. 1979; Buried Child, pr. 1978, pb. 1979; Seduced, pr. 1978, pb. 1979; Tongues, pr. 1978, pb. 1981; Savage/Love, pr. 1979, pb. 1981; True West, pr. 1980, pb. 1981; Fool for Love, pr., pb. 1983; A Lie of the Mind, pr. 1985, pb. 1986; States of Shock, pr. 1991, pb. 1992; Simpatico, pr. 1994, pb. 1995; Plays, pb. 1996-1997 (3 volumes); When the World Was Green, pr. 1996, pb. 2002 (with Joseph Chaikin); Eyes for Consuela, pr. 1998, pb. 1999; The Late Henry Moss, pr. 2000, pb. 2002.
Other major works
Short fiction: Cruising Paradise, 1996; Great Dream of Heaven: Stories, 2002.
Screenplays: Me and My Brother, 1969 (with Robert Frank); Zabriskie Point, 1970; Ringaleevio, 1971; Renaldo and Clara, 1978; Paris, Texas, 1984 (with L. M. Kit Carson); Fool for Love, 1985 (adaptation of his play); Far North, 1988; Silent Tongue, 1994.
Nonfiction: Rolling Thunder Logbook, 1977.
Miscellaneous: Hawk Moon: A Book of Short Stories, Poems, and Monologues, 1973; Motel Chronicles, 1982 (poetry and short fiction); Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard: Letters and Texts, 1972-1984, 1989.
Auerbach, Doris. Shepard, Kopit, and the Off-Broadway Theater. Boston: Twayne, 1982.
Bottoms, Stephen J. The Theatre of Sam Shepard: States of Crisis. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
DeRose, David J. Sam Shepard. New York: Twayne, 1992.
Hart, Lynda. Sam Shepard’s Metaphorical Stages. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987.
King, Kimball, ed. Sam Shepard: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1988.
Marranca, Bonnie, ed. American Dreams: The Imagination of Sam Shepard. New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1981.
Mottram, Ron. Inner Landscapes: The Theater of Sam Shepard. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1984.