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Going 'Deep In Shepard Territory'

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).
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).

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

Going 'Deep In Shepard Territory'
GUESTS: Joe Powers, 'Deep in Shepard Territory' project director Beth Accomando, KPBS arts and culture reporter Subscribe to the Midday Edition podcast on iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Actor, playwright and author Sam shepherd died in 2017 and this month the casual company is paying a month long tribute to the playwright with a project called deep in Shepard territory at 10th Avenue Arts Center. KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando speaks with project director Joe Powers, who also performs in the shepard play geography of a horse dreamer. So tell me what this Sam Shepard project at 10th Avenue is going to be about? Speaker 2: 00:27 Well, it's basically a tribute to Sam Shepard and his work. April 40 years ago was the day that he won his Pulitzer Prize for a buried child. So we began to put together the geography of a horse during where we talked about it. It's a play that I had done basically 27 years ago with some of the same actors that are in it now. And the thing that I began to realize about shepherds work is that a different times in your life you might be able to do it again. So I thought, you know, I read, 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, you know, they're kind of trying to figure out what's left of their life and what's going on. You got a horse dreamer that's held prisoner by gangsters. Speaker 2: 01:09 So it's a very exciting, a rollicking play a show. Anyway, W as we began to do this a long, long time ago, when I was doing some shepherd earlier, somebody in a review said, uh, one, one of the monologues started. Now we're deep into shepard territory. And that's how it is when you read some a shepherd stuff. You know that when he goes to this place, it's, it's his place. And uh, so that's why we began to call this thing that we're doing in the tribute deepen shepard territory. So what we going to do every night after horse dreamer, we're going to allow the audience members to bring a one to three minute piece and asked one of the right actors to read it. Uh, so it's not just geography but horse stream, but it's also this deep in Shepard territory element that, um, expand and bring some of the shepherds, other pieces into it. Speaker 2: 01:58 So what do you think it is that defines that shepherd territory? What qualities or what kind of a feel or tone is it? I think, uh, uh, mainly it's rural America. It's his ability to try to connect with rural America. It's just the family struggling to find their way through her, uh, America and keep up with it, but at the same time not lose the essence that formed this country. I mean, there's a, there's an immense amount of, uh, old West imagery in the Sam Sheppard stuff. There is a connection to the land, to a, a disconnection with family. And then there's feeling of trying to reconnect and it's just, you know, mostly I think it was visceral. I think know it, it takes us to a place and we will start reading something and we'll go home. You know, I felt that once or, or he's, he's talking about me or, or, you know, this is a situation I've seen or I've known. Yeah. I think mainly it's, it's just the fact that it's a very American, very, a rural, very human. I think more than anything is probably just that it's very human. Speaker 3: 03:11 And even though his stuff is rooted in a reality, there's a real Speaker 2: 03:16 poetry to his work. There's an immense poetry to his work. And I think that's part of what this deepened shepard territory is. When we think about the poetry, it does take over. You get these monologues that are, these people, you know, expressing their Ang store, expressing their love or expressing whatever it is they're expressing. And then all of a sudden you know, it, it's coming out and it's just flowing. And it takes you to this place that you, you know, if it, if it were a movie, the lights would be changing, there'd be an underscore and all of a sudden, you know, you're feeling this immense connection to someone else that, uh, and it's very, very poetic. And at the same time it's still people talking. And I think that's probably what shepherd does really, really well. Speaker 3: 04:06 And why do you feel it's important that we remind people of who shepherd was and, and keep his plays alive in theater? Well, Speaker 2: 04:14 we have to consider that, uh, he's probably one of the most prolific, uh, American playwrights. And also that he's just very America. And if we want to say, who gave me a good example of who an American playwright is, we can say Sam Shepherd and, you know, we can say Tennessee Williams and we can say, Arthur Miller. And, and, you know, he ties into all of that. But, but we can also look at him and see his, his immense connection to back Ed and, and some of the stuff that he was trying, you know, to him, you know, emulate. And, uh, um, anybody that's read shepard or seen shepherd knows that. I think that the work is extraordinary. Speaker 3: 05:10 That was after Joe Powers speaking with KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando, geography of a Horse Dreamer Opens April 5th at 10th Avenue Arts Center.

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.

Going 'Deep In Shepard Territory'
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. You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego Stories, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.