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Past Exhibits: Sam Shepard Archives: Sam Shepard Bio

The most influential playwright of his generation, Sam Shepard was born in 1943 in Ft. Sheridan, IL. His family traveled extensively before settling in Southern California. While in high school he began acting and writing poetry. In 1962 he left home with a traveling theater group and arrived in New York City the following year, where he began writing short “rock and roll” plays. Shepard’s first plays to be staged were Cowboys and The Rock Garden, at Theater Genesis in October 1964. He has won almost a dozen Obies for off-Broadway productions. La Turista (1967) was his first full-length play. In 1971, he moved to London where he spent three years writing and directing. As playwright in residence at San Francisco’s The Magic Theater, he wrote Angel City, Inacoma, Tongues (in which he and his mentor Joseph Chaikin appeared), and True West, a 2000 Broadway production of which won numerous Tonys. He returned to the Magic Theater in 2000 for the premiere of The Late Henry Moss, which he also directed. He also wrote a libretto for a Daniel Nagrin dance piece in Jacaranda (1979).

Sam Shepard won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for Buried Child. He has received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation (1967) and from the Guggenheim Foundation (1968 and 1971). A revision of Buried Child received a Tony Award nomination (1996). Shepard was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letter in 1986. He received the Gold Medal for Drama (1992) from the Academy and was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame (1994).

Shepard joined a rock band, the Holy Modal Rounders in 1968, playing drums and guitar. He took part in Bob Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder Revue,” a nationwide touring group, in 1975, and wrote an account of the experience, Rolling Thunder Logbook (1977). Shepard’s film career began in 1978, when he appeared in Renaldo and Clara and Days of Heaven, directed by Terrence Malick. His screenplay for Paris, Texas, directed by Wim Wenders, won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984. Also that year he received an Academy Award nomination for The Right Stuff (1983). Shepard also earned a Golden Globe nomination for Dash & Lily (1999). He wrote and directed Far North in 1988. Shepard has appeared in a number of other movies and in 2005 he wrote and performed in Don’t Come Knocking. Shepard’s published collections of short stories include Hawk Moon (1973), Cruising Paradise (1996), and Great Dream of Heaven (2002).