At our founding, our mission included a commitment to “Shakespeare and classics of the American stage.” Recently, we expanded that to “Shakespeare and other actor-driven plays.” Still, for our first non-Shakespeare production, it seemed right to honor a playwright of the American stage and, more specifically, the American Southwest.
Sam Shepard, who passed away last year, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Fool for Love, a play that explores the very American themes of identity, Western culture, and rootlessness. When news of Shepard’s passing reached me, I thought immediately how appropriate it would be to honor him by choosing one of his plays for our first non-Shakespeare show. Fool for Love was a play Shepard both directed and acted in, so it is especially appropriate to honor him with a presentation of this desperate and passionate drama about love and family.
With biting humor and riveting passion, Fool for Love asks us to take a hard look at our own family legacy. And that’s the way Sam Shepard saw the world: desperate, passionate, humorous, and biting. The two lovers in Fool (or perhaps, the two fools), Eddie and May, embody the harsh realities and stark beauties of life in the 1980s Southwest. They are Shepard’s “star-crossed lovers,” and that makes this story a perfect fit for FlagShakes.
Another reason this play works so well for FlagShakes is the surrealism of the presence of the “Old Man,” a character who existed in Eddie and May’s pasts and whose presence is still so visceral that, even though neither of them has seen him in 15 years, he participates in the action of the play. The “Old Man” also talks directly to the audience. This character who is both of and not of the world of the play and who speaks to the audience directly reminded me very much of many Shakespearean characters; the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Gower in Pericles, Lear himself.