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Sam Shepard, Prolific Playwright and Actor, Has Died

Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for Buried Child.

Sam Shepard has died at the age of 73.
(© Gregory Costanzo)

The prolific playwright, actor, and director Sam Shepard has died at the age of 73. Shepard passed on Thursday, July 27 at his home in Kentucky from complications from ALS. His representatives at International Creative Management had "no comment" at this time.

Born Samuel Shepard Rogers IV in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, on November 5, 1943, Shepard was the eldest of three children, whose father was an army officer and mother was a teacher. After graduating from high school in 1961, Shepard studied agriculture at Mount Antonio Junior College, but later joined the Bishop's Company Repertory Players. Shortly thereafter, he moved to New York City and worked as a bus boy at the Village Gate.

Shepard's first produced plays were Cowboys and The Rock Garden, presented on a double bill in 1964. His first full-length play, La Turista, was written in 1967 and honored with an Obie Award, which, at that point, was his fourth (he received three previously for Chicago, Icarus's Mother, and Red Cross). He earned additional Obies for Melodrama Play and Cowboys #2 in 1968, as well as The Tooth of the Crime in 1973. Curse of the Starving Class premiered in 1978,

The following years were prosperous for Shepard's playwriting career. At San Francisco's Magic Theatre, he premiered his plays Buried Child (1979, and a Pulitzer Prize-winner), True West (1980), and Fool for Love (1983). A Lie of the Mind premiered in 1985. As an actor during this decade, Shepard was seen in Days of Heaven, Resurrection, Raggedy Man, Frances, The Right Stuff (for which he received an Academy Award nomination), and Country, among other films. He made his feature film directing debut with 1988's Far North.

Shepard's acting career continued to prosper. He has also been seen in the films Steel Magnolias, Dash and Lilly, Voyager, The Pelican Brief, Snow Falling on Cedars, Black Hawk Down, Swordfish, The Pledge, August: Osage County, and the Netflix series Bloodline. As a writer, his output in the 2000s included the plays The Late Henry Moss, Kicking a Dead Horse, Ages of the Moon, Heartless, and A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations). Magic Theatre will host a special Bay Area celebration of Shepard's life and career in September 2017.

Shepard married the actress O-Lan Jones in 1969 and they divorced in 1984. From 1970-71, Shepard was in a relationship with the performer Patti Smith. He met Oscar winner Jessica Lange on the set of the film Frances, and they were together for nearly 30 years, separating in 2009. He is survived by his children, Jesse Mojo Shepard, Hannah Jane Shepard, and Samuel Walker Shepard.

Funeral arrangements remain private. Plans for a public memorial have not yet been determined.


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