During the mid-1960s, Sam Shepard played drums for the Holy Modal Rounders. He also wrote some material. At first, he didn't even tell the band that he was writing plays. According to Antonia, one of the other band members, "He didn't tell people about that part of his life. Every once in a while I'd meet someone and we would be busy talking and they would say 'You mean Sam Shepard the off Broadway playwright that won three Obies?' and I'd say 'No, Sam Shepard the drummer.'"
Originally produced at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco on July 19, 1980, True West tells the story of two brothers (Austin, a Hollywood screenwriter, and Lee, a petty thief) who clash when they both return to their mother's Southern California home. The play, one of Sam Shepard's finest, explores the duality of human nature as well as our primal capacity for violence.
Sam Shepard won a Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for Buried Child. Originally produced at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco on June 27, 1978, Buried Child tells the story of Vince, a young man who brings his girlfriend home to meet his highly dysfunctional family, none of whom seems to remember him, and all of whom harbor a dark secret.
The Tooth of Crime, a rock-drama written during the four years Sam Shepard lived in London, was originally performed at the Open Space, London, on July 17, 1972. The play depicts a duel to the death between two rock stars from different generations battling for musical supremacy. The weapon of choice in this duel is not a gun, but rather a rap session in which each musician uses verbal incantations to pierce the mask and shatter the confidence of his opponent.
Sam Shepard's screenplay for Paris, Texas, which won the Golden Palm Award at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, tells the story of a man who wanders out of the desert suffering from amnesia, with no idea who he is or where he's come from. The film features Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, and Nastassja Kinski.