Posts Tagged ‘sam shepard’

Theater review: Sam Shepard’s HEARTLESS

September 23, 2012

My (somewhat belated) review of Sam Shepard’s new play Heartless at Signature Theater, featuring a terrific cast headed by Lois Smith (above center), has just been posted on Check it out here and let me know what you think. It’s quite an unusual play for Shepard, harkening back to his early, very wild and free plays — not to everybody’s taste but definitely to mine. The show runs only one more week, so if you’re inclined to go, don’t wait.

From the deep archives: Performance Diary 9/2/84

June 13, 2012

September 2 – Last night Stephen and I went to see Jeff Weiss at the Performing Garage. Harry Kondoleon joined us, along with Patricia Benoit and her German boyfriend Mark. I gave Harry a tape I’d just finished making for him with many songs he’d requested (Sheila E’s “The Glamorous Life,” Cyndi Lauper’s “She-Bop,” “99 ½,” etc. – he ever so casually asked for things to be in a certain order, which I always take to be firm requests, Harry knows exactly the way he wants things but is a little embarrassed by the force of his will and tries to disguise or downplay it). The running refrain on the tape is Bette Davis saying “She liked it,” from Baby Jane. I called the tape “Labor Day Request Concert.” Harry told me that once he was listening to one of my tapes are rehearsal for The Fairy Garden and John Glover grabbed the Walkman and said, “What are you listening to?” It was just then that the tape was going from the Butthole Surfers (“There’s a time to shit and a time to pray…”) to Frank Sinatra singing with children. John Glover gave it back with a look of horror – Harry was secretly glad to counter Glover’s aggressiveness with something shocking, but he realized the weirdness of him sitting in rehearsal placidly listening to these insane juxtapositions.

Andy Jackness’s set for Harry Kondoleon’s play THE FAIRY GARDEN at the Second Stage Theatre

Jeff Weiss’s show was pretty crazy, too – another version of And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid, this time acted out by a full cast (the first time we saw this, he did all the parts himself – I remember that night vividly, also at the Garage, Tom Waits was there looking autistic), including several Wooster Group people, plus a bunch of really hunky actors, including an amazingly tall (possibly seven-foot) actor named Sturgis Warner who made me dizzy just to look at him, gorgeous, muscular, handsome in a Peter Evans sort of way. The show was a sort of detective caper, with Ron Vawter as a detective tracking down the Finnish gymnast who’s been killing people – of course it’s Connie Gerhardt (Jeff Weiss) imitating a Finnish gymnast. The sick thing about the story is that everyone starts imitating Connie’s pickup lines – the detective acts them out with his teenage songs in grab-ass sessions in the garage. (More kissing, wrestling, and groping – all gay – in this show that any I can remember.) The underlying story was the pathology and tragedy of real actors, with so many personalities trapped inside them – also the personal tragedy for Jeff Weiss of aging, of having worshiped youthful physique and maintaining it unnaturally into his 50s, now crumbling and sweating out time. The most moving, chilling, also bathetic moment was a scene on a bus after a wrestling match when Connie is thinking aloud to a young wrestler (actually his own son, long ago conceived with a lesbian so they could get welfare, named Narcissus) and begging him to run away with him and love him.

Jeff Weiss and Sturgis Warner

At intermission we stood out on the street. A rather bizarre homely straight couple stood against the wall making out and playfully imitating the pickup lines from the play. Three people passing by picked their way through the crowd on the sidewalk and one guy said, “This is like theater in the live.” We chatted a little with Patrick Merla, who was in the audience. He has crossed eyes, very disconcerting to deal with, and an incredibly queeny voice but in some ways he looks very charismatic with his leonine mane and grand manner. While talking to us, he waved at someone and imperiously called, “Come over here.” It was Keith McDermott, a former boyfriend of Edmund White’s who was in the show.

Jeff Weiss reminded me a little of James Leo Herlihy, whom I finally met when Stephen and I went to dinner with him, Joe Frazier, and John Tveit (Joe’s organist friend) in San Francisco. I was surprised to find that I liked Jamie a lot – perhaps because unlike most famous people he didn’t simply grab center stage and hold forth – he was very solicitous and personable. We quickly got into a conversation about altering sex habits to avoid AIDS. He confided that what he loved doing more than anything in the world was sucking cocks, and he’d decided not to do it so often and not to swallow cum anymore. He said whenever the possibility of sex arises, he always finds an excuse to go to the bathroom or be alone for a few minutes to ask himself if this encounter is really worth it – worth the emotional effort as well as possible health risk, or is it just a meaningless impulse – and he finds himself deciding against it more often than in the past. He recently sat by and watched his mother died from cancer, and his roommate/boyfriend in LA has AIDS.

Tallulah Bankhead and James Leo Herlihy

Jamie had a little notebook which he kept taking out to jot down felicitous phrases, even though Stephen says he’s given up writing. He was very impressed (and a little envious) to hear that I’d written my Shepard biography in six weeks while recovering from hepatitis. He loves Sam Shepard, loves movie-star bios. I told him the story Bill Kleb told me about Shepard peeing in a prop toilet during class, and Jamie insisted that I put it in the book – otherwise I would be doing a disservice. “This book is in part a love letter,” he said, “telling Sam Shepard you’re fascinating, you’re talented, you’re pretty, and so on. But it’s also a mirror – you have to say ‘And then there’s this!’ Stars want you to do that.” He said it’s demeaning to be “nice” in one’s writing. He quoted Tolstoy saying “The two things a writer needs are a dirty mind and a good sense of gossip.” He was very encouraging and flirtatious without being overbearing. He described his ass as looking like “a pair of used tea bags.” His second play Crazy October, which he ended up directing, starred Tallulah Bankhead, Estelle Winwood, and Joan Blondell – how unimaginable!

Three pictures of me taken within the space of three weeks in 1984

Events: PARIS, TEXAS at the Rubin Museum next Friday, February 24

February 17, 2012

The Rubin Museum of Art, one of New York City’s finest small museums, specializes in Himalayan arts and culture, and its multimedia programming, curated by Tim McHenry, is extraordinarily inventive and delicious. Every Friday night there’s a Cabaret Cinema, movie night with cocktails. Next Friday, February 24, the series will feature Wim Wenders’ 1984 Paris, Texas, whose screenplay came from Sam Shepard. As a Shepard scholar, I’ve been asked to introduce the film (i.e., talk about the film beforehand for nine minutes — and ONLY nine!). Feel free to join me for the occasion.


Quote of the day: LEARN

June 1, 2010


“Things You Learn from Others”

How to stop tucking your T-shirt into your underpants. How to drink from a cup without drooling. How to eat with a fork and not your hands. How to dry yourself off inside the shower so you don’t get the floor wet. How to tie a half-hitch. How to make sure the disc plow overlaps the tire tread. How to tell when a colt is back at the knee. How to drive with one eye shut when you’re skunk drunk. How to sleep all night in a ditch. How to sharpen a knife with a stone. How to gut a deer. How to read the flight of hawks and owls. How to release a greyhound in tall grass when you see the seed heads move in a silken wave. How to blindfold a spooky horse with burlap. How to do nothing but listen when someone wants to do nothing but talk.

What you don’t learn, though, is how to protect others from your own manifestations of cruelty and malice which you’ve learned so insidiously through skin and blood and find impossible to shake free from no matter how much you’d like to be thought of as a decent, wholesome person.

— Sam Shepard

Quote of the day: OBSERVATION

May 26, 2010


I make no bones about my obsession with observation. I enjoy making notes. Jotting things down. I prefer not to be stared at when I’m furtively staring at others. There is a subtle art to the sneaking of glances. Timing is everything. To look as though all your attention is completely absorbed in the subject of your notebook when, in fact, you are lurking; waiting for the moment he picks up his coffee cup, takes a chomp out of the donut then unabashedly sucks the sticky sugar off his fingers while continuing to scan the Racing Form. These are the ripe spans of time where you seize the opportunity to look deeply into the essence of a man; see the source of his greed without his having the slightest clue. Still, you have to be constantly alert; wary of not getting caught by his quick glance. In the flash of an eye he might become aware that you are a witness and begin subtly altering his every manifestation; playing out the illusion that he is in total control of his character or worse – he might become hostile and paranoid. I’ve seen it happen. People hate to be seen. They hate the sensation of eyes on them; being looked at for what they are and not what they imagine themselves to be. Very few people can handle the blatant stare except children under five. This has been my experience anyway.

— Sam Shepard, “Costello”

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