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Sam Shepard: Fifteen One-Act Plays

Sam Shepard: Fifteen One-Act Plays
Your Price: $21.00 CDN
Author: Sam Shepard
Introduction by: Conor McPherson
Publisher: Vintage Books
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 381
Pub. Date: 2012
ISBN-10: 0345802764
ISBN-13: 9780345802767

About the Play:

Filled with wry, dark humour, unparalleled imagination, unforgettable characters, and exquisitely crafted storytelling, Sam Shepard's plays have earned him enormous acclaim over the past five decades. He honed his craft writing at a furious rate during the 1960s, a decade when he created more than a dozen works that would be staged at such off-off-Broadway fixtures as the now-legendary Caffe Cino and La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club (La MaMa E.T.C.). In these fifteen one-acts, mainly for the off-off-Broadway circuit, we see him at his best, displaying his trademark ability to portray human relationships, love, and lust with rare authenticity. These fifteen furiously energetic plays confirm Sam Shepard's status as one of the most significant American playwrights of the 20th century, unafraid to set genres and archetypes spinning with results that are utterly mesmerizing. Included in the volume Fifteen One-Act Plays are:

Ages of the Moon: A gruff, affecting and funny full-length drama. Byron and Ames are old friends, reunited by mutual desperation. Ames' marriage has broken down and he calls Byron, whom he hasn't seen in years, in desperation. Byron travels for three days to see Ames, and over bourbon on ice, they sit, reflect and bicker until fifty years of love, friendship and rivalry are put to the test at the barrel of a shotgun. (Premiered in 2009 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland; Cast: 2 male)

Evanescence or Shakespeare in the Alley: A woman question's reality and existence after sudden changes in her life. (Premiered in 2011 at the Atlantic Stage 2 in New York City; Cast: 1 female, 1 male)

Short Life of Trouble: A writer and musician work on an undisclosed project while discussing their American icons: James Dean, Hank Williams, and Woody Guthrie. Yet all are discussed within the shadow of the circumstances of their deaths. (First published in Esquire in 1987; Cast: 2 male)

The Unseen Hand: A haunting protest against the dehumanizing tendencies of modern societies and a powerful affirmation of the human spirit, the play moves after the "revolution" in a surrealistic and Kafkaesque world. Nogoland is the area ruled absolutely in which three brothers, old style "desperadoes" from the Wild West have been summoned out of the 19th century by the single individual who is trying to throw off the yoke of his inhuman oppressors. (Premiered in 1969 at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City; Cast: 5 male)

The Rock Garden: What's a boy to do with parents who bore him, if not to death, then to the point of coma? A young man endures servitude to an invalid mother who constantly demands fresh water and blankets (which she then throws on the floor in order to send him after more) and to a self-absorbed stepfather who has plans to landscape the grounds of their new home – with the boy's help, naturally. Finally the dutiful son devises stratagems to foil the old woman's manipulations and stun the old man right out of his chair. (Premiered in 1964 at St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery in New York City; Cast: 1 female, 2 male)

Chicago: The Beckettian dilemma of Stu, puppet and demiurge ensconced in his bathtub, moves from his particular problem (his lover is leaving him) to the threat posed to the human spirit by its own increasingly dangerous civilization. (Premiered in 1965 at St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery in New York City; Cast: 2 female, 3 male)

Icarus's Mother: The lazy picnic taking place slowly becomes an electric vision of apocalyptic menace. (Premiered in 1965 at Caffe Cino in New York City; Cast: 2 female, 3 male)

4H Club: In a small kitchen littered with garbage and debris, John, Bob and Joe discuss the cultural imperatives that have brought them to the existential impasse of their misspent lives. In this short play dating from 1964, Shepard evokes Beckett and Albee in his continuing exploration of the human condition in all it's permutations. (Premiered in 1965 at Cherry Lane Theater in New York City; Cast: 3 male)

Fourteen Hundred Thousand: A monstrous bookcase is the focus of the various characters' strange dreams and disappointments. (Premiered in 1965 at the Firehouse Theatre in Minneapolis; Cast: 2 female, 3 male)

Red Cross: This Obie Award Winning play explores the vampire quality of language, the power it conveys and the treachery it entails. (Premiered in 1966 at the Judson Poets Theater in New York City; Cast: 2 female, 1 male)

Cowboys #2: In this rewrite of his second play, the long-lost Cowboys, Sam Shepard explores the nature of man as experienced by Chet and Stu, two self-styled cowboys whose imaginary world is interrupted by the mundane necessities of daily existence. (Premiered in 1967 at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles; Cast: 4 male)

Forensic and The Navigators: Two men attempt to liberate the inmates of a concentration camp. The free, flexible minds of the two revolutionaries are contrasted with the unthinking, easily manipulated, totally programmed minds of the "establishment's" victims – represented by the exterminators of the camp. (Premiered in 1967 by Theatre Genesis in New York City; Cast: 5 male)

The Holy Ghostly: A symbolic representation of the gradual death of the human spirit at the mercy of society. It involves a confrontation between father and son, the father long dead yet living on mechanically, the no longer human end product of his environment; the son frustrated and angry at his father's fate, frightened by his inner knowledge that this could easily be his fate as well. (Premiered in 1969 by La Mama New Troupe on the European and American college tour; Cast: 2 female, 3 male)

Back Bog Beast Bait: The final work of his early East Village period and the last play he wrote before taking off for London in 1971 for three years, this powerful play examines the dangers of ignorance, the power of superstition, and the tendency of the educated to exploit the uneducated. (Premiered in 1967 at the American Place Theatre in New York City; Cast: 1 male)

Killer's Head: A man who is about to be executed. He sits in an electric chair, blindfolded, his hands and torso tied to the chair and the cap pulled onto his head. What follows is a ten-minute train of thought where he compares trucks and horses. (Premiered in 1975 at the American Place Theatre in New York City; Cast: 1 male)

What people say:

"The major talent of his generation.... An original, a major force.... [Shepard] is a poet of the theater, shaping a new language out of broken words: an emotional seismograph registering the tremors which shake the substratum of human life." — The Times (London)

"The greatest American playwright of his generation … the most inventive in language and revolutionary in craft, [he] is the writer whose work most accurately maps the interior and exterior landscapes of his society." — New York Magazine

"His plays are stunning in their originality, defiant and inscrutable." — Esquire

"With the exception of David Mamet, no American playwright of his generation matches Mr. Shepard in the creation of characters that are immediately so accessible and so mysterious." — The New York Times

"One of our best and most challenging playwrights.... His plays are a form of exorcism: magical, sometimes surreal rituals that grapple with the demonic forces in the American landscape." — Newsweek

"If plays were put in time capsules, future generations would get a sharp-toothed profile of life in the U.S. in the past decade and a half from the works of Sam Shepard." — Time

"Sam Shepard fulfills the role of professional playwright as a good ballet dancer or acrobat fulfills his role in performance.... He always delivers, he executes feats of dexterity and technical difficulty that an untrained person could not, and makes them seem easy." — The Village Voice

About the Playwright:

Sam Shepard (1943-2017) was an American playwright and actor. Born in Illinois and raised in Southern California, he worked as a farmhand and musician before moving to New York to begin his career as a playwright. The celebrated author – who New York Magazine called "the greatest American playwright of his generation" – wrote more than forty plays, eleven of which have won Obie Awards. His play Buried Child won the Pulitzer for drama. Two other plays True West and Fool for Love were nominated for the Pulitzers as well, and are frequently revived. As an actor he appeared in more than thirty films, including an Oscar nominated performance for his role as test pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff.

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