The celebrated playwright and Oscar-nominated actor Sam Shepard died on Thursday at his home in Kentucky. The news broke on Monday, when a spokesman for Shepard's family announced that Shepard had passed away at the age of 73, in the presence of his family, due to complications from Lou Gehrig's disease. Shepard has left behind a powerful legacy: alongside the films and theater productions that he starred in and contributed to, he also graced the world with his many unique and inspiring observations.
Shepard was an award-winning playwright, having won an impressive three Pulitzer prizes, so it's not exactly surprising that he knew how to spin a turn of phrase. He is considered by many to have been a defining theatrical voice, bringing to life characters struggling to understand their identity and their place in the world. It is this that made him so beloved by many, and why his words of wisdom will continue to be treasured.
The quotes featured on this list are honest, poignant, and motivational. When read together, they perfectly sum up what was so particularly special about Sam Shepard's refreshing approach to life, acting, and art — and all the many ways in which they come together.
1"When you hit a wall, just kick it in."
— Sam Shepard gave this advice to his long-time friend and ex-partner Patti Smith when she complained about hitting a wall creatively. She wrote about the exchange in her memoir Just Kids, and the advice has inspired writers and artists ever since.
2"In real life we don't know what's going to happen next. So how can you be that way on a stage? Being alive to the possibility of not knowing exactly how everything is going to happen next — if you can find places to have that happen onstage, it can resonate with an experience of living."
— from an interview in The New York Times, August 10, 2012
3"I'm a great believer in chaos. I don't believe that you start with a formula and then you fulfill the formula. Chaos is a much better instigator, because we live in chaos — we don't live in a rigorous form."
— in conversation with Clare Dwyer-Hogg, 2013
4"I hate endings. Just detest them. Beginnings are definitely the most exciting, middles are perplexing and endings are a disaster. … The temptation towards resolution, towards wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap. Why not be more honest with the moment? The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning. That’s genius."
— The Paris Review, 1977
5"...and in that wink I understood there might be grown men in this world who actually get a spark out of life."
— Great Dream of Life
6"You can't force a thing to grow. You can't interfere with it. It's all hidden. It's all unseen. You just gotta wait til it pops up out of the ground. Tiny little shoot. Tiny little white shoot. All hairy and fragile. Strong enough. Strong enough to break the earth even. It's a miracle."
— Buried Child
7"The mind ain't nothing without the old body tagging along to follow things through."
— La Turista
8"Ideas emerge from plays, not the other way around."
— 'Language, Visualization, and the Inner Library'
9"When you're looking for someone, you're looking for some aspect of yourself, even if you don't know it ... What we're searching for is what we lack."
— from an interview in The Guardian, March 21, 2010
10"I believe in my mask — The man I made up is me."
— 'Crow's Song', Tooth of Crime
11"When you die it's the end of your life."