Theater archives

Sam Shepard, Giant of the Stage and Screen, Dead at 73


Sam Shepard, the prolific American playwright, actor, and director, died on Thursday of complications from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 73.

Born in Illinois to two teachers, Shepard wrote more than forty plays, the earliest of which were produced when he was still a teenager. His 1978 play, Buried Child — a dark vision of the disintegration of the American nuclear family — earned him a Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as an Obie Award for Playwriting. Two of his subsequent plays, 1980’s True West and 1983’s Fool for Love, were Pulitzer finalists. (The Voice’s relationship with the playwright goes back to 1965, when Edward Albee reviewed Shepard’s Icarus’s Mother.)

Shepard also enjoyed a successful acting career, which took off with his role in the 1978 Terrence Malick film Days of Heaven. In 1983, he was nominated for his first and only Academy Award for his portrayal of United States Air Force General Chuck Yeager in Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff. More recently, he appeared in the 2013 film adaptation of Tracy Letts’s August: Osage County and as patriarch Robert Rayburn in the Netflix original drama Bloodline.

He is survived by his sisters, Sandy and Roxanne Rogers, and his children, Jesse, Hannah, and Walker Shepard.