Thursday, November 27, 2008

Kicking a Dead Horse


Do you remember your first Sam Shepard experience? Does it have a place in your heart similar to other moments like your first beer or your first time driving across state border lines? I know a whole lot of cynics out there who are desperate to convince others that they have outgrown Sam Shepard, people who are afraid that they can't be taken seriously unless they find him jejune or incapable of rising out of the mire adolescent muscular stereotype. For them Sam Shepard is less of a playwright and more likely a posture, less iconoclast and more iconography like the Marlboro Man - undeniable American, masculine, bad for your internal organs. I am not one of those people. I still love Sam Shepard. I can admit that he is well from another time, but the man still casts a huge shadow, so huge that it still provides relevant shade even from way back (wink) in the previous century.


If theatre truly is a boys club, then every wunderkind who pens something profane is held up in comparison to Sam.


I remember my first Sam Shepard play. It was a production of True West done in a black box space at the Brevard Community College. The resident director at the Cocoa Beach Community Theatre named Seaside Community Theatre wanted to do this play which his board would not back. It was too dark for them. So, he produced it himself at the local community college. That production... who knows if the production would hold up in my now jaded eyes... the performance I believe would, those guys Michael Thompson and Terry Girard were excellent at playing the brothers... but the director rewrote the last page of the script to make the piece more charged, more noir... and well thinking back on that I begin to question the memories I have of his other decisions.


I am sure that there are folks out there who have read or seen Kicking a Dead Horse, and their response was a sort of 'meh' a shoulder shrug. I can see all those well read shoulders rising and falling in slow motion silhouette. I can almost see with certainty the eyes rolling in the heads of a thousand graduate level theatre students.


Why is it that I feel I have to write this big damn long justification for enjoying a playwright like Sam Shepard. Come on... to hell with it! I'm a fan. Sue me or not. I don't care... or at the very least I shouldn't care and so... (dismissive hand gesture).


But, damn it ... this piece is I think a damn good one act play. Simple, spartan almost, and fucking honest. There is only one moment that scares me (if I were to direct it) as possibly too romantic... but the rest of it is for me spot on.

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