Staff at The Playhouse in Derry have spoken of their sadness at the passing of acclaimed playwright and Hollywood actor, Sam Shepard.
Shepard’s last play, ‘A Particle of Dread,’ was premiered at The Playhouse during his six week residency in 2013.
Niall Mc Caughan, CEO of The Playhouse, said: “Sam was here in November, 2013 as part of City Of Culture with Field Day, a Playhouse Patron. Sam had written ‘A Particle of Dread (Oedipus variations),’ and we were fortunate as one of the key commissioning and producing theatres in Ireland to host this World Premiere.”
Niall said that having Field Day back at The Playhouse was exciting enough, but to have a screen legend brought an added new dimension. “He was a true gentleman; everyone liked him and he took Derry to his heart. In one interview for ‘The Guardian’ he stated: ‘In Derry, you have a feeling of home; there’s a centre to it. In LA, you don’t get that.’ ”
Niall said that when The Playhouse first learned that Sam was coming, he ‘googled’ him and was surprised to learn that he was better known as a playwright than a screen legend. “He wrote 44 plays and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for ‘Buried Child.’ His plays were bleak, poetic, had black humour and focused on those living on the outskirts of American society. He worked with amongst others Bob Dylan, Richard Greer, Harvey Keitel, Sean Penn and Woody Harrelson. He also had a very successful acting career, receiving amongst others an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in ‘The Right Stuff,’ and appeared in many other films including ‘Black Hawk Down’ as well as writing the cult film ‘Paris Texas.’
“Originally when he came to The Playhouse, he only was to stay a week, but ended up staying nearly two months!
“He was a likeable man,and I have to say that I was a bit star struck when I first met him. On the World Premier of his play I had on opening night, to give my seat up for Edna O’Brien. On my second attempt the following night I again had to give up my seat, this time to Neil Jordon and ended up heading to our theatre bar to chat to our staff. Here I was surprised to find Sam on his own and I ended up spending a lovely night chatting about life in general.
“I was really surprised to learn that like me, he was from a farming background and still kept a busy farm. This was the highlight personally for me of his visit, and we in The Playhouse were honoured that he came into our lives for such a brief time, but left his mark here, in our cultural city and globally.
“We send our condolences to his family, friends and Field Day Theatre Company.”