Mirror, Mirror: The American Family in the Twentieth Century

Sam Shepard  (1943 -  )

Buried Child


  • Born Samuel Shepard Rogers III on an army base in Fort Sheridan, Illinois; his father, a World War II bomber pilot, who remained in the military until 1955.
  • Raised on a farm in California and studied agricultural science at Mount Antonio Junior College (1960-61).
  • Began calling himself Sam Shepard when he left California to tour as an actor and writer; arrived in Greenwich Village in 1963.
  • Married and divorced actress O-Lan Johnson; currently living with Jessica Lange.
  • Began working in major motion pictures in the 1970s.


  • First plays, Cowboys and The Rock Garden, premiered at the Theater Genesis in 1964.
  • Buried Child, one of a trio of plays on the theme of family discord that also included Curse of the Starving Class and True West; tensions between fathers and sons and brothers a recurring theme.
  • Has written more than forty plays and screenplays,which have received at least ten Obies for best Off-Broadway plays; Buried Child won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 and A Lie of the Mind, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award in 1986.
  • Feature films as an actor include Days of Heaven, Resurrection, Frances, The Right Stuff, Fool for Love, Crimes of the Heart, and The Pelican Brief, Snow Falling on Cedars, All the Pretty Horses.

Major Writings

Cowboys, 1964
The Rock Garden, 1964
Icarus's Mother
, 1965
Red Cross, 1966
La Turista, 1968
Operation Sidewinder, 1970
Mad Dog Blues, 1971
The Tooth of Crime, 1973
Angel City, 1976
Curse of the Starving Class, 1978
Buried Child, 1978
True West, 1981
Fool for Love, 1983
Superstitions, 1983
A Lie of the Mind, 1987
Hawk Moon, 1989
States of Shock, 1991
The Late Henry Ross
, 2001

Zabriskie Point (with Antonioni et al.), 1972
Paris, Texas (with L. M. Kit Carson), 1984
Fool for Love (based on his own play of the same title), 1985

Other works
Hawk Moon  (stories, poems monologues), 1973
Rolling Thunder Logbook, 1977
Motel Chronicles, 1982
The War in Heaven (with Joseph Chaikin), 1987
Cruising Heaven: Tales, 1996

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications: Contemporary Authors, Volumes 69-72, and Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volume 22, and Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volumes 4, 6. 17, 34, 41, and 44. Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online and Contemporary Literary Criticism Online) can be accessed through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com.

    Other Gale publications that include Shepard materials include Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 7: Twentieth Century American Dramatists, and Volume 212: Twentieth-Century American Western Writers; Dictionary of Twentieth Century Culture, Volume 1; Drama Criticism, Volume 5; Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 25; Major Twentieth-Century Writers. 4 vols.

  • Print resources
    • Gay Gibson Cima, "Buried Child," Theatre Journal, 35 (December 1983, 559-60.
    • Ruby Cohn, The New American Dramatists, 1960-1980, 1982.
    • Joanathan Cott, "the Rolling Stone Interview: Sam Shepard," Rolling Stone (18 December 1986), 166-168, 170, 172, 198, 200.
    • Rudolf Erben, "Women and Other Men in Sam Shepard's Plays," Studies in American Drama, 1945-present, 2 (1987), 29-41.
    • Richard Gilman, Introduction to Sam Shepard: Seven Plays, 1984.
    • Kimball King, ed. Sam Sherpard: A Casebook, 1988.
    • Bonnie Marranca, ed. American Dreams: The Imagination of Sam Shepard, 1981.
    • Ron Mattram, Inner Landscapes: The Theater of Sam Shepard, 1984.
    • Thomas Nash, "Sam Shepard's Buried Child: The Ironic Use of Folklore," Modern Drama 26 (1983), 486-91.
    • Ellen Ourmano, Sam Shepard: The Life and Work of an American Dreamer, 1986.
    • Sheila Rabillard, "Sam Shepard: Theatrical Power and American Dreams," Modern Drama, 30 (1) (1987), 58-71.

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