It’s legacy time for the boom generation. Patti Smith got her documentary, the alter cockers of rock got their Hall of Fame TV spectacular, and now Sam Shepard is starting to collect lion-in-winter appreciations. Not that he doesn’t deserve them. Though best known since the mid-1980s as a character actor specializing in affable but resolute Okie types (Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff; Garrison, the commanding officer in Black Hawk Down), Shepard had a whole other career as an incendiary playwright whose earliest work started the cognoscenti chattering about beat rhythms and shamanic possession. His step over into mainstream theatrical stardom with plays like Buried Child (1979 Pulitzer) and True West inspired consternation in the avant-garde. Most memorably, Jeff Dorchen of Chicago’s Theater Oobleck posed him as a hillbilly Faust in The Slow and Painful Death of Sam Shepard. There can’t be many other American artists who’ve covered as much cultural ground. Shepard will be at the Chicago Humanities Festival to pick up the 2010 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize and deliver his acceptance lecture.
More Fall Arts Guide