Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Theatre & Dance

First Advisor

Bud Coleman

Second Advisor

Beth Osnes

Third Advisor

Oliver Gerland


Over Sam Shepard’s forty-plus year career as a playwright, his work has closely followed a very specific format. While the work itself varies wildly in subject matter, style, and language, his protagonists continue to age along with the playwright. Since tackling his family and alcoholic father in 1977s Curse of the Starving Class, his main characters continually struggled with their father figures through the different stages of their lives: Wesley as the young teenager in Curse, Vince as the twenty-something in Buried Child, Austin and Lee as 30-somethings in True West, Eddie as the late 30s cowboy in Fool for Love, and Jake and Frankie in A Lie of the Mind. The Late Henry Moss, first produced in 2000, signaled a seismic shift in Shepard’s work. The father figure dies (in the same manner Shepard’s father did) and leaves the two brothers to ponder what happens next. What does happen is that Shepard’s latest plays, God of Hell, Kicking a Dead Horse, and Ages of the Moon, don’t focus on the father/ son dynamic at all. The protagonists have continued to age along with Shepard, but their struggles have become more internal, more self-aware, but no less tragic. These latest plays show an artist grappling with his own mistakes, not his father’s, his own mortality, not his father’s, and his own legacy. These plays are the totality of a life lived and signal a natural progression in Shepard’s work that is only possible with his age and experiences.