About 18 years ago, I felt inspired to write a strange little essay about Sam Shepard. I don’t recall now why I composed it or what I had planned to do with it, if anything. Ultimately, I did nothing with it, aside from file it away in some online folder.
It starts like this:
“Blame Sam Shepard for my love affair with tragedy.
His words affected me before his cowboy looks did. It started when I was just 16, when I saw Buried Child at a public theater in Pennsylvania.
Lights slowly fade in on 16-year-old girl, sitting in theater-in-the-round, leaning forward in seat, elbows on knees, eyes fixed on stage, intently watching the final scene of Buried Child.”
Much has been written about how his plays represent the disaffected, the isolated, America’s ignored and misbegotten products of an American dream. How they capture the violence of rootless characters’ collective psyche, characters who hold on precariously to the promise of a way out. There wasn’t and isn’t much I could add. I do remember this: That when the last line of Buried Child was read and the lights faded to black, a jolt of energy passed from the stage through the floor to my feet and all the way through me like an electric current.
And I didn’t even yet know the face behind the words.
Sam Shepard once said, on finality and endings: ”The temptation toward resolution … wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap … The most authentic endings are the ones which are already evolving towards another beginning.”
As much as he left as a legacy, still how much more might he have left in our country’s current intellectual vacuum?
RIP Sam Shepard.