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Authors: Sam Shepard

Buried Child

BOOK: Buried Child
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SAM SHEPARD
Buried Child

Sam Shepard is the author of more than forty-five plays. He won the Pulitzer Prize for
Buried Child.
He was a finalist for the W. H. Smith Literary Award for his story collection
Great Dream of Heaven,
and he has also written the story collection
Cruising Paradise,
two collections of prose pieces,
Motel Chronicles
and
Hawk Moon,
and
Rolling Thunder Logbook,
a diary of Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Review tour. As an actor he has appeared in more than thirty films, including
Days of Heaven, Crimes of the Heart, Steel Magnolias, The Pelican Brief, Snow Falling on Cedars, All the Pretty Horses, Black Hawk Down,
and
The Notebook.
He received an Oscar nomination in 1984 for his performance in
The Right Stuff.
His screenplay for
Paris, Texas
won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, and he wrote and directed the film
Far North
in 1988 and cowrote and starred in Wim Wenders’
Don't Come Knocking
in 2005. Shepard's plays, eleven of which have won Obie Awards, include
The God of Hell, The Late Henry Moss, Simpático, Curse of the Starving Class, True West, Fool for Love,
and
A Lie of the Mind,
which won a New York Drama Desk Award. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Shepard received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy in 1992, and in 1994 he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. He lives in New York.

ALSO BY SAM SHEPARD

Tooth of Crime (Second Dance)

The God of Hell

Great Dream of Heaven

The Late Henry Moss, Eyes for Consuela,
When the World Was Green

Cruising Paradise

Simpático

States of Shock, Far North, Silent Tongue

A Lie of the Mind

The Unseen Hand and Other Plays

Fool for Love and Other Plays

Paris, Texas

Seven Plays

Motel Chronicles

Rolling Thunder Logbook

Hawk Moon

For Joe Chaikin

PREFACE TO THE
REVISED EDITION

In 1978, when we first produced
Buried Child
at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, I had an uneasy feeling about it. Although I was more than satisfied with the production, the actors, the set, etc., aspects of the writing still seemed awkward and unfinished. The Pulitzer Prize did not change my opinion in this regard, but by that time I was already on to other work and had no inclination to double back. When Gary Sinise started work on the Steppenwolf production in Chicago in 1995, enough time had elapsed for me to clearly see the holes in the play. This insight was also heightened by Gary's instinct to push the characters and situation into an almost burlesque territory, which seemed suddenly right. It became clear, for instance, that Halie's offstage voice in the opening scene went on too long and that Lois Smith (playing the part) was bringing a sharp irony and wit to it that deserved special attention. The sexual innuendos between Dodge (James Gammon) and Shelly (Kellie Overbey) needed to be more overt and less coy. But, most important, the character of Vince seemed to be hanging in the wind, without real purpose. Even though a core truth of this character is his aimlessness and passivity, there seemed to be no point in allowing him to
be completely outside the play almost in the predicament of a narrator. So I began to try to find ways to bring him around, to “see the light,” as it were, without turning him into some kind of hero or even Sherlock Holmes. Finally, the language began to settle in and take hold. There were fewer gaps between the actors, the characters, and the words. I'm very grateful for having had the opportunity to do this work. It's now a better play.

Sam Shepard

July 2005

Buried Child,
the revised edition, was produced on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre by Frederick Zoilo, Nicholas Paleólogos, Jane Harmon, Nina Keneally, Gary Sinise, Edwin Schloss, and Liz Oliver on April 30, 1996. The production transferred from the premiere production at Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Martha Lavey Artistic Director; Michael Gennaro, Managing Director) in Chicago, Illinois, which opened on October 1, 1995. It was directed by Gary Sinise; the set design was by Robert Brill; the costume design was by Allison Reeds; the lighting design was by Kevin Rigdon; the sound design was by Rob Milburn; and the production stage manager was Laura Koch. The cast was as follows:

DODGE
    James Gammon
HALIE
    Lois Smith
TILDEN
    Terry Kinney
BRADLEY
    Leo Burmester
SHELLY
    Kellie Overbey
VINCE
    Jim True
FATHER DEWIS
    Jim Mohr

Buried Child
was produced at Theater for the New City, in New York City, on October 19, 1978. It was directed by Robert Woodruff. The cast was as follows:

DODGE
    Richard Hamilton
HALIE
    Jacqueline Brookes
TILDEN
    Tom Noonan
BRADLEY
    Jay O. Sanders
SHELLY
    Mary McDonnell
VINCE
    Christopher McCann
FATHER DEWIS
    Bill Wiley

Buried Child
received its premiere at the Magic Theatre, in San Francisco, California, on June 27, 1978. It was directed by Robert Woodruff. The cast was as follows:

DODGE
    Joseph Gistirak
HALIE
    Catherine Willis
TILDEN
    Dennis Ludlow
BRADLEY
    William M. Carr
SHELLY
    Betsy Scott
VINCE
    Barry Lane
FATHER DEWIS
    Rj Frank

CHARACTERS

DODGE
    in his seventies
HALIE
    Dodge's wife; mid-sixties
TILDEN
    their oldest son
BRADLEY
    their next oldest son, an amputee
VINCE
    Tilden's son
SHELLY
    Vince's girlfriend
FATHER DEWIS
    a Protestant minister
Act One

Scene: day. Old wooden staircase down left with pale, frayed carpet laid down on the steps. The stairs lead offstage left up into the wings with no landing. Up right is an old, dark green sofa with the stuffing coming out in spots. Stage right of the sofa is an upright lamp with a faded yellow shade and a small night table with several small bottles of pills on it. Down right of the sofa, with the screen facing the sofa, is a large, old-fashioned brown TV. A flickering blue light comes from the screen, but no image, no sound. In the dark, the light of the lamp and the TV slowly brighten in the black space. The space behind the sofa, upstage, is a large screened-in porch with a board floor. A solid interior door to stage right of the sofa leads from the porch to the outside. Beyond that are the shapes of dark elm trees.

Gradually the form
DODGE
is made out, sitting on the couch, facing the TV the blue light flickering on his face. He wears a well-worn T-shirt, suspenders, khaki work pants, and brown slippers. He's covered himself in an old brown blanket. He's very thin and sickly looking, in his late seventies. He just stares at the TV. More light fills the stage softly. The sound of light rain,
DODGE
slowly tilts his head back and stares at the ceiling for a while, listening to the rain. He lowers his head again and stares at the TV. He starts to cough slowly and softly.
The coughing gradually builds. He holds one hand to his mouth and tries to stifle it. The coughing gets louder, then suddenly stops when he hears the sound of his wife's voice comingfrom the top of the staircase.

HALIE'S VOICE:
Dodge?
(DODGE
just stares at the TV. Long pause. He stifles two short coughs.)
Dodge! You want a pill, Dodge?
(He doesn't answer. Takes a bottle out from under a cushion of the sofa and takes a long swig. Puts the bottle back, stares at the TV pulls the blanket up around his neck.)
You know what it is, don't you? It's the rain! Weather. That's it. Every time. Every time you get like this, it's the rain. No sooner does the rain start than you start.
(Pause.)
Dodge?
(He makes no reply. Pulls a pack of cigarettes out from his sweater and lights one. Stares at the TV. Pause.)
You should see it coming down up here. Just coming down in sheets. Blue sheets. The bridge is pretty near flooded. What's it like down there? Dodge?
(DODGE
turns his head back over his left shoulder and takes a look out through the porch. He turns back to the TV).

DODGE:
(To himself.)
Catastrophic.

HALIE'S VOICE:
What? What'd you say, Dodge?

DODGE:
(Louder.)
It looks like rain to me! Plain old rain!

HALIE'S VOICE:
Rain? Of course it's rain! Are you having a seizure or something! Dodge?
(Pause.)
I'm coming down there in about five minutes if you don't answer me!

DODGE:
Don't come down.

HALIE'S VOICE:
What!

DODGE:
(Louder.)
Don't come down!
(He has another coughing attack. Stops.)

HALIE'S VOICE
: You should take a pill for that! I don't see why you just don't take a pill. Be done with it once and for all. Put a stop to it.
(He takes the bottle out again. Another swig. Returns the bottle.)
It's not Christian, but it works. It's not necessarily Christian, that is. A pill. We don't know. We're not in a position to answer something like that. There's some things the ministers can't even answer. I, personally, can't see anything wrong with it. A pill. Pain is pain. Pure and simple. Suffering is a different matter. That's entirely different. A pill seems as good an answer as any. Dodge?
(Pause.)
Dodge, are you watching baseball?

DODGE
: No.

HALIE'S VOICE:
What?

DODGE:
(Louder.)
No! I'm
not
watching baseball.

HALIE'S VOICE:
What're you watching? You shouldn't be watching anything that'll get you excited!

DODGE:
Nothing gets me excited.

HALIE'S VOICE
: No horse racing!

DODGE:
They don't race here on Sundays.

HALIE'S VOICE:
What?

DODGE:
(Louder.)
They don't race on Sundays!

HALIE'S VOICE:
Well, they shouldn't race on Sundays. The Sabbath.

DODGE:
Well, they don't! Not here anyway. The boondocks.

HALIE'S VOICE:
Good. I'm amazed they still have that kind of legislation. Some semblance of morality. That's amazing.

DODGE:
Yeah, it's amazing.

HALIE'S VOICE:
What?

DODGE:
(Louder.)
It
is
amazing!

BOOK: Buried Child
8.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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