August 28, 2014
Netflix series

For lack of any name, I had been referring to the new Netflix project slated for 2015 as the "Black Sheep" series. Still unable to come up with a name, the production at least is presently using THE UNTITLED KZK PROJECT. KZK is best known as  the writing and production trio of Daniel Zelman and brothers Glenn and Todd A. Kessler (collectively known as KZK), who created the American legal thriller television series, "Damages". The  description of this new series reads: "A family of adult siblings whose secrets and scars are revealed when their black sheep brother returns home." We now know some of the main character names. Sam, the patriarch, is called Robert Rayburn and his wife is Sally, played by Sissy Spacek. Several Rayburns are listed but they can't all be their children - John, Jane, Danny, Sarah, Meg, Ben, Kevin, Diana and Belle. I expect we will see our playwright in brief scenes. The photos below are location shots showing Gala Catering about to feed the cast and crew and the second one shows an abandoned array of director chairs including one for its star Kyle Chandler. They're certainly keeping this one under wraps.

Klondike portraits

Here are some wonderful portraits of Sam from his role as Father Judge in the Klondike mini-series that debuted in January on the Discovery Channel. Thanks to Magdelena for passing them along.

August 21, 2014
Coming next month

The acclaimed thriller, COLD IN JULY will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 30. The first image below shows the Blu-ray cover. The second is a new poster which is my favorite; however, it doesn't connect to the film noir atmosphere and its cinematography which is soaked in dark hues. The third image is from Mondo, the collectible art division of the Alamo Drafthouse.  Not too crazy about it but I did love the Mud poster they created last year, which is the fourth image.

The photo below is one of my favorite scenes because it shows Sam sitting in one of my favorite diners in town. Shot a year ago July in upstate New York, specifically Kingston, Esopus and Woodstock, a local can spot so many familiar places, such as the Olympic Diner.

"Ithaca" - new film project

Filming began July 21 in Virginia for Sam's latest film, ITHACA. The film, executive produced by Tom Hanks, is Meg Ryan's directorial debut. Based on the book, "The Human Comedy", written by William Saroyan, "Ithaca" is a coming-of-age story set in the San Joaquin Valley in California during World War II.

Fourteen-year-old Homer Macauley is left to take care of his  mother and family when his older brother goes to war. Homer's dream is to be the greatest and fastest bicycle telegraph messenger the world has ever known. The messages he carries all around his hometown are filled with love and pain that reflect how World War II has impacted the homefront. On top of his responsibilities as a messenger, Homer also has important duties at home. His father is dead, and his older brother has gone off to war, so he must help his mother in providing for his older sister and caring for his four-year-old brother, Ulysses.

Ms. Ryan will also play Mrs. Macauley with Alex Neustaedter as her son Homer. Meg's real-life son Jack Quaid will take on the role of older son Marcus. Sam plays a man named Willie Grogan.

The producers transformed parts of Petersburg into a small World War II-era town through the use of storefront facades, a makeshift grocery store and a fleet of cars from antique collectors. Also used were The Brickhouse Run and the historic Tree Hill Farm.  Most of the film was shot in Petersburg with some scenes shot at the former Robert Fulton School in the Fulton Hill area of Richmond and at a farm surrounding the city. Location manager Tom Trio said that part of the city's appeal was that not a lot of cosmetic changes had to be made to adapt the city to Ryan’s vision or that of writer Erik Jendresen's.

July 5, 2014
Six months from now

Here is a bit more info on the upcoming NYC premiere of A  PARTICLE OF DREAD, staged by the Signature Theatre Company.

It will be  produced with Field Day Theater Company, directed by Nancy Meckler, and will once again feature Stephen Rea as Oedipus. Rehearsals will begin October 14, 2014 with the play running from November 11 thru December 21 at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre.

The description of the characters is as follows:

Oedipus/Otto: plays multiple roles including Oedipus, King of Thebes. When told as a young man that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother, he left his home and came to Thebes. There he solved the riddle of the sphinx and married Queen Jocasta without realizing she was his real mother. Now Thebes has been attacked by plague. Oedipus is a strong, proud leader, determined to rescue his city from the plague by finding out who killed its former king. Short of temper. Also plays Otto, in a wheelchair, possibly a retired teacher. Mild mannered and curious, he is plagued by dreams in which he seems to have murdered someone. He becomes fascinated by newspaper reports of a crime on the highway, as if somehow this crime is related to him or his dreams. He has a close loving relationship with his daughter Annalee.

Antigone/Annalee: plays multiple roles including Antigone, daughter of Oedipus. Strong, determined, passionate about how she lives her life. Uncompromising, loving. Also plays Annalee, daughter of Otto. Married to a violent man who has killed their babysitter. Terrified it will affect her baby son's future because of what he has seen. Blunt, outspoken, determined, loves her father.

Jocasta/Jocelyn: Jocasta is the Queen of Thebes. Attractive, sensual, high status, proud, a strong match for her husband Oedipus. He is in fact her son. Perhaps she has always known or suspected this and does not want the truth to come out. Mild Northern Irish accent. Jocelyn is the wife of Otto. A Southwestern housewife. Otto is an anxious man, but she is the calm one, unruffled, wants a peaceful life, avoids conflict. A gently warm personality.

Uncle Del/Traveler/Tiresias/Maniac Of The Outskirts: with a strong comic sense, irony, sense of detachment from society's madness. Plays multiple roles, including Uncle Del, based on the Oracle at Delphi. Reads signs, throws the bones, and sacrifices animals to read their intestines; Traveler. blind, lives in the hills and can see the future; Tiresias, a blind seer called to Oedipus to reveal what he knows about why the city is ridden with plague; and Maniac of the Outskirts, an anonymous madman who lives on the outskirts of society and gets blamed for everything. Bitter, pissed off, sarcastic, comic. Think Ratso Ritzo in "Midnight Cowboy."

Laius/Larry/Langos: powerful presence, good-looking, sexy, threatening, simmering, high status. Plays multiple roles including Laius, a king who ruled Thebes years before the Oedipus story. When his wife Queen Jocasta gave birth to their son, Oedipus, the child was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Laius took the child to the hills to be left to die. Years later he was killed at a crossroads in an altercation with Oedipus; Larry, a young, modern version of Laius, consulting a healer because his wife cannot conceive; and Langos, a gangster casino boss who denies at first that he ever had a son but then admits that he did abandon the child in the hills.

Randolph: an American detective who is very keen on the forensic aspect of the work. He is so obsessive about what one can glean about a crime from the evidence that he gets carried away and begins to picture the crime and the people and fantasize about them. Must have a strong comic sense.

Harrington: from the American Southwest. A highway policeman, he is laid back and feels very cynical about forensic experts. He sees the crime in a very straightforward way and simply assumes it is Mexican gang warfare. Bemused by Randolph's fanciful ideas gleaned from the evidence. Must have a strong comic sense.

A somber photo from 2008

June 20, 2014
A quickie Q&A

When a reputable British media outlet publishes a list of dumb questions posed for Sam Shepard with his less-than-truthful answers, it's a bit puzzling. When, how and where this opportunity arose is anybody's guess. If you know Mr. I-don't-like-to-answer-questions, you'll be able to quickly pick up the silly responses, such as "I am always relaxed".  Echoes of James Lipton here...

When were you happiest?
Before I was born.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
That's a hard one. All of the great writers whom I admire have died. I guess the most recent one would be Márquez.

Property aside, what's the most expensive thing you've bought?
A horse.

What is your most treasured possession?
A horse.

What makes you unhappy?
The rain.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My shoes.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Picking my nose.

What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?
I don't attend costume parties.

What is your favorite smell?

What is your favorite word?

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?

Cat or dog?

What do you owe your parents?

Have you said 'I love you' and not meant it?

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Kate Moss.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
The words I overuse are all adverbs.

What is the worst job you've done?
Cleaning horse piss. I keep my horses out in the open, but when I was working the ranches, I had to clean the stalls. It was a horrible job.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
To the 1400s. Historically, I think it would be interesting – it was a transitional time, like we have now.

How do you relax?
I am always relaxed.

What is the closest you've come to death?
I was shot in the wrist when I was a kid. Deliberately. I am not telling [by whom].

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Maybe Kate Moss.

What keeps you awake at night?

Where would you most like to be right now?
Where I am – in the Florida Keys, fishing for tarpon.

Now that's the truth. Filming for the unnamed Netflix drama series has begun in the village of Islamorada, the sportsfishing capital of the world!

New portrait from this year's Sundance Film Festival

Another summer project

Sam will also be spending some time in Virginia this summer taking on a role in the film, ITHACA, to be directed by Meg Ryan. Filming will take place in the Richmond-Petersburg area. The story is set in 1942 in a small town in California's San Joaquin Valley, where 14-year-old Homer Macauley is determined to be the best and fastest bicycle telegraph messenger anyone has ever seen. His brother has gone to war, leaving Homer to look after his widowed mother, his older sister and his four-year-old brother. As spring turns to summer, Homer delivers messages of love, hope pain and death to the good people of Ithaca. He'll also struggle with one message that will change him forever.

May 29, 2014
Available on VOD

In the past week COLD IN JULY has garnered some great reviews since it was released on May 23rd.

Bob Grimm of the Tuscon Weekly writes, "Who knew Sam Shepard could be so damn scary? As a deranged father recently released from prison and seeking revenge, Shepard is just one of the many reasons to see 'Cold in July', a first rate Texas thriller from director Jim Mickle that stands as one of the better films of 2014 thus far... Killing Them Softly, Mud, Out of the Furnace, and a short but haunting appearance in August: Osage County reveal that the man with the golden typewriter has a whole lot of powerhouse acting left in him."

Though the film is presently showing a 90% rating on the Tomatometer, I have to disgree with the critics. After viewing it last night, I'm still having trouble swallowing its multitude of implausible plot developments and twists.

Since the screenplay was based on a novel, I had higher expectations but the script lacks cohesion as well as any sense of reality. I have a penchant for this genre - love "Blood Simple", "Red Rock West" and HBO's "True Detective" series. The audience is introduced to family man Richard Dane, played by Michael C. Hall, and he comes across as a rather sweet and  somewhat timid man. He's a loving husband and father and law-abiding citizen. His becoming Rambo with the decision to risk losing his family for a bunch of low lifes does not fly unless he's suffering from some kind of Jekyl and Hyde disorder. Sam was terribly miscast and barely exudes any danger or menacing presence. Throw in Don Johnson with that laughable boyish grin and you've gotten rid of all suspense. Such a disappointment!

On a personal aside, I previously mentioned that this movie was filmed in my backyard in upstate NY. It was once a strong IBM community with as many as 7100 employees back in its heyday. Upon reaching 25 years of service, an employee received a pendulum clock with a gold plated inscription. My husband's gift still has a prominent place in our living room. Obviously, the filmmakers took over an IBMer's home because the clock shows up in the film as seen in the photo below.            

On the Bowery

Here are some paparazzi shots taken in NYC this month. The strange thing is they were all taken on Bowery Street. The first photo shows Sam's daughter Hannah out shopping with her mom.

The second set  shows Sam with an unnamed woman. Since they're standing with the arms around each other while he gives directions, my guess is these two may be more than friends.

Avant garde theater

When San Francisco theatrical group Word for Word wanted to stage Sam's prose verbatim, he said he considered short stories a unique literary genre and when he wants to write a play, he writes a play. "Why should I let you do this?" he asked. Creator Amy Kossow admitted, "He liked the narrative voice of his prose and didn't want to lose it." Eventually Sam caved in with his blessing for the challenging project. "36 Stories by Sam Shepard" opened May 21st and will run through June 22. Kossow selected material from five Shepard books - "Hawk Moon", "Motel Chronicles", Day out of Days", "Great Dream of Heaven" and "Cruising Paradise". Personally, I love his short stories, especially when he reads them. My audiotape of "Cruising Paradise" is almost worn out! IMHO, to take bits of his prose and scramble them into something anew certainly dilutes the flavor and magic of each delightful story weakening its strength and continuity.

Robert Hurwitt, theater critic for The San Francisco Chronicle, agrees. He writes, "The pieces never cohere into a whole, narratively or tonally - which isn't surprising given the wide range of Kossow's sources. As engrossing as the actors make it in the moment, '36' leaves you not only without much of a story but with only a vague sense of Shepard's voice."

Perhaps Miss Kossow's rainy day project should have been shelved before gathering momentum. Personally, I dislike piggybacking.

Praise for Shepard, the actor

Film critic Nick Schager (5/27/14):  "Shepard's 2013 work with Matthew McConaughey in Mud and Christian Bale in Out of the Furnace provided additional confirmation that the actor is still one of cinema's most formidable presences. In film after film, he comes across as a man's man who's lived through wars (personal, familial, national) and has come out the other side with an understanding of both his strengths and weaknesses. That ability to naturally meld cocksure charisma and irreconcilable bitterness and remorse — a marriage that bleeds into so much of his writing, be it for the stage or the screen — continues to make Shepard one of the movies' most unsung stars."


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