"Savage/Love" is a collection of monologues on the puzzles and vicissitudes of romantic love. It does not have the standard narrative structure of a play and is instead made up of various pieces such as poems and music.

Performance History

First New York production: In a double bill with "Tongues" at the Public Theatre in November 1979. Performed by Chaikin and directed by Shepard. Music by Harry Mann and Skip LaPlante.

First London production: Donmar Warehouse on April 30, 1984. Directed by Christopher Payton.


Nelson Pressley, Washington Post:
"'Savage/Love' was written around 1980, but you'd swear it came straight from the fervent avant-garde laboratory of earlier years, when Shepard  and Chaikin discovered their artistic selves. Character and plot, among other theatrical conventions, are out the window; "Savage/Love" is a sequence of 19 poems - some lyrical but most of them anxious - on love."

Joseph Chaiken, March 16, 1981 {Joseph Chaikin & Sam Shepard: Letters and Texts, 1972-1984]:

When Sam Shepard and I decided to work in close collaboration on a new theatre piece, we wrote each other and talked on the telephone between New York and California to make plans and express first thoughts. Before meeting, we decided that our piece should be about romantic love and about the closeness and distance between lovers. Our agreement at the outset was to meet for three weeks to compose the piece. At the end of the three weeks, we would perform both the new piece and "Tongues" for a public audience in San Francisco.

We both felt that we wanted the piece to be readily identifiable, n ot esoteric. We felt it should be made up of love moments that were as immediately familiar to most people in the audience as they were to Sam and me. Although we had known each other for many years, we had never talked about this subject. When we began to talk and work, even though we each had very different stories, we found that we shared many thoughts about the human experience of love. We talked especially about the difficulty of expressing tenderness and the dread of being replaced.

The first step was to choose the moments, and then to speak from within those moments. A "moment" could be the first instant of meeting the lover, or it could be the experience of lovers sleeping next to each other, with one a little bit awake watching the other one sleep. Unlike our approach to "Tongues", I would improvise around or inside a moment; Sam would write. We would later discuss and try things...

We argued about the title. Sam continually defended "Savage/Love". I found something wrong with it each time I spoke and heard it. But by the second or third public performance, I felt the power and appropriateness of these two words.