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Monday, September 11, 2017

Sam Shepard on his family plays (1 of 3)


Published on Feb 28, 2010 Sam Shepard on identity, L.A., his father, women, flying, and his "family plays." Tooth of Crime, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, True West.. From PBS Great Performances. Directed by Oren Jacoby.

Rest in Peace, Sam...




INTERVIEWER
Do you think you’ll ever live in the West again?
SHEPARD

No, I don’t think so. The California I knew, old rancho California, is gone. It just doesn’t exist, except maybe in little pockets. I lived on the edge of the Mojave Desert, an area that used to be farm country. There were all these fresh-produce stands with avocados and date palms. You could get a dozen artichokes for a buck or something. Totally wiped out now.
INTERVIEWER
True West, Buried Child, Curse of the Starving Class, and Lie of the Mind are all family dramas, albeit absurdist ones. Have you drawn a lot from your own family?
SHEPARD
Yes, though less now than I used to. Most of it comes, I guess, from my dad’s side of the family. They’re a real bizarre bunch, going back to the original colonies. That side’s got a real tough strain of alcoholism. It goes back generations and generations, so that you can’t remember when there was a sober grandfather.
INTERVIEWER
Have you struggled with drinking?
SHEPARD
My history with booze goes back to high school. Back then there was a lot of Benzedrine around, and since we lived near the Mexican border I’d just run over, get a bag of bennies and drink ripple wine. Speed and booze together make you quite . . . omnipotent. You don’t feel any pain. I was actually in several car wrecks that I don’t understand how I survived.
At any rate, for a long time I didn’t think I had a problem. Alcoholism is an insidious disease; until I confronted it I wasn’t aware that it was creeping up on me. I finally did AA in the hardcore down on Pico Boulevard. I said, “Don’t put me in with Elton John or anything, just throw me to the lions.”
INTERVIEWER
Do you feel like the drinking might have aided your writing?
SHEPARD
I didn’t feel like one inspired the other, or vice versa. I certainly never saw booze or drugs as a partner to writing. That was just the way my life was tending, you know, and the writing was something I did when I was relatively straight. I never wrote on drugs, or the bourbon.
INTERVIEWER
You said the men on your dad’s side of the family were hard drinkers. Is this why the mothers in your plays always seem to be caught in the middle of so much havoc?
SHEPARD
Those Midwestern women from the forties suffered an incredible psychological assault, mainly by men who were disappointed in a way that they didn’t understand. While growing up I saw that assault over and over again, and not only in my own family. These were men who came back from the war, had to settle down, raise a family and send the kids to school—and they just couldn’t handle it. There was something outrageous about it. I still don’t know what it was—maybe living through those adventures in the war and then having to come back to suburbia. Anyway, the women took it on the nose, and it wasn’t like they said, Hey Jack, you know, down the road, I’m leaving. They sat there and took it. I think there was a kind of heroism in those women. They were tough and selfless in a way. What they sacrificed at the hands of those maniacs . . .
INTERVIEWER
What was your dad like?
SHEPARD
He was also a maniac, but in a very quiet way. I had a falling-out with him at a relatively young age by the standards of that era. We were always butting up against each other, never seeing eye-to-eye on anything, and as I got older it escalated into a really bad, violent situation. Eventually I just decided to get out.

 LINK


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In a 2016 New York Times Q&A, Sam was asked if he felt he had achieved something substantial in his career.
"Yes and no. If you include the short stories and all the other books and you mash them up with some plays and stuff, then, yes, I've come at least close to what I'm shooting for. In one individual piece, I'd say no. There are certainly some plays I like better than others, but none that measure up."



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