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Going ‘Deep In Shepard Territory’

Geography of a Horse Dreamer’ comes to Tenth Avenue Arts Center

Photo credit: Joe Powers

The Casual Company's cast for Sam Shepard's "Geography of a Horse Dreamer": Robert Ramirez, Walter Murray, Joe Powers, Navarre Perry, and Bob Larsen (top row) and Ron Choularton and Bill Barstad (bottom row).

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Companion viewing

"The Right Stuff" (1983, Shepard plays Chuck Yeager)

"Paris, Texas" (1984)

"Fool For Love" (1985)

The Casual Company presents Sam Shepard’s "Geography of a Horse Dreamer" at Tenth Avenue Arts Center as part of a month-long tribute to the late playwright called Deep in Shepard Territory. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando has this preview.

Sam Shepard was an actor, director, playwright and screenwriter and wildly successful at all he did. As a playwright with five decades of work, he displayed a unique gift for capturing a certain kind of Americana with a mix of realism and poetry.

Joe Powers is project director for The Casual Company’s production of "Geography of a Horse Dreamer." The play is part of a month-long tribute to the playwright who died in 2017. The production is part of what Powers is calling "Deep in Shepard Territory" at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center.

"Somebody in a review said of once one of Shepard's monologues started, 'Now we're deep into Shepard territory.' And that's how it is when you read some of Shepard's stuff. You know that when he goes to this place, it's his place. And so that's why we began to call this thing that we're doing 'Deep in Shepard Territory.' What we are going to do every night after 'Horse Dreamer,' we're going to allow audience members to bring a one to three-minute piece from their favorite Shepard and ask one of the right actors to read it."

In addition to "Geography of a Horse Dreamer," there will be staged readings of Shepard's "Buried Child" (April 16) and "Fool for Love" (April 22).

The reason for doing this now is that it was in April 40 years ago that Shepard won his Pulitzer Prize for "Buried Child." And the reason for picking "Geography of a Horse Dreamer" for the full production was because it was a play Powers had done 27 years ago and he saw that it resonated in new ways now.

"The thing that I began to realize about Shepard's work is that at different times in your life you might be able to do it again," Powers said. "And this particular play, I went back and I read over it and I said, well, you know, this could be older guys. I think it is older guys. And I think they're kind of trying to figure out what's left of their life and what's going on. So it's a very exciting, a rollicking play."

Powers said Shepard had a gift for defining rural America.

"It's his ability to connect with rural America," Powers said. "It's the family's struggling to find their way through America and keep up with it, but at the same time not lose the essence that formed this country. There's an immense amount of old West imagery in the Sam Shepard stuff. There is a connection to the land, a disconnection with family, and then there's a feeling of trying to reconnect and mostly I think it was visceral. There's a reality to it that's also enhanced by fantasy and taking it to the next level. And 'Horse Dreamer' pits a lot of archetypal characters against each other. Things like old cowboys, old gangsters. It's very American, very rural, very human, I think more than anything is probably just, it's very human."

Shepard's plays are spellbinding and filled with unexpected poetry.

"There's an immense poetry to his work," Powers said. "When you get deep in Shepard territory that's where the poetry is. You get these monologues that are these people expressing their angst or expressing their love or expressing whatever it is they're expressing. And then all of a sudden it's just flowing and it's very, very poetic. But it is also just people talking and I think that's probably what Shepard does really, really well."

Powers added that Shepard is one of those playwrights that is just very American. In his own unique voice, he represents American playwrights such as Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.

"I think that his work is extraordinary and I think that we have to make sure as we move forward in time that we don't lose track of some of the greater things that happened before us," Powers said.

"Deep in Shepard Territory" hopes to remind audiences of what Shepard's legacy is. Performances begin April 5.

The Casual Company presents Sam Shepard’s "Geography of a Horse Dreamer" at Tenth Avenue Arts Center as part of a month-long tribute to the late playwright called Deep in Shepard Territory.

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Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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