Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard, whose dark examinations of American family life earned him critical acclaim, died on Sunday at age 73. Broadway World reported, "Shepard, who had been ill with ALS for some time, died peacefully on July 30 at home in Kentucky, surrounded by his children and sisters."
He is survived by his children Jesse, Hannah and Walker Shepard, and his sisters Sandy and Roxanne Rogers. A spokesman for the family said, "The family requests privacy at this difficult time." Shepard had previously been married to actresses O-Lan Jones and Jessica Lange, and dated Patti Smith:
— The Bowery Boys NYC (@BoweryBoys) July 31, 2017
Born Samuel Shepard Rogers III in 1943 in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, he moved to New York City in the early 1960s and became involved in the theater scene. In their obituary, the NY Times wrote:
One of the most important and influential early writers in the Off Broadway movement, Mr. Shepard captured and chronicled the darker sides of American family life in plays like “Buried Child,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1979, and “Curse of the Starving Class” and “A Lie of the Mind.”
He was widely regarded as one of the most original voices of his generation, winning praise from critics for his searing portraits of spouses, siblings and lovers struggling with issues of identity, failure and the fleeting nature of the American dream. He was nominated for two other Pulitzers, for "True West" and "Fool for Love," which both received Broadway productions...
Working at Off Broadway landmarks like La MaMa and Caffe Cino, Mr. Shepard almost immediately received critical acclaim upon embarking on his career, winning Obie Awards for “Chicago” and “Icarus’s Mother” in 1965 and then “Red Cross” and “La Turista” in 1966. He would win seven more.
Shepard also carved out a career as an actor in film and TV, as the rich farmer in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven; an Oscar-nominated turn as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff; the Vermont veterinarian in Baby Boom; and, recently, in the Netflix series Bloodline.
In an interview with the NY Times, he was asked about acting on stage; he said he was "Not as good as I am in the movies. You don’t have to do anything in the movies. You just sit there. Well, that’s not entirely true. You do less. I find the whole situation of confronting an audience terrifying."
Many have been paying tribute on Twitter:
Sam Shepard is one of the greats. These eyes saw so much, and he wrote of what he saw with fearless, timeless honesty. RIP maestro. pic.twitter.com/pIY4FWxXtZ
— Beau Willimon (@BeauWillimon) July 31, 2017
Sam Shepard was recipient of the PEN/Laura Pels Award in 2009. His legacy in the American theater goes unquestioned. https://t.co/rtesuS3tLJ
— PEN America (@PENamerican) July 31, 2017
His plays blew me away when I was a teenager. I loved knowing he was the inspiration for Joni’s Coyote, too. God of Charisma.
— emily nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) July 31, 2017