Saturday, August 12, 2017

Meeting Sam Shepard in a Dream; lofty ambitions and gutted fish

   I met Sam Shepard in a dream last night, my last one before waking, on an open cement flat construction site with poles sticking up. It had been turned into a movie set where I was working on as Assistant to Something. 
   A crew man drilled a hinge on a doorway and it fell over.
   ‘One door, two people,” I muttered as if it were a common safety saying. 
   Oddly, actors rehearsed while hammers were banged on set pieces. 
    The director, finished arguing with someone, huffed off the construction site. Someone called ‘Break,’ and people sat where they were, took food out of lunch boxes.
   One man at the edge of the site/set seemed sad, without a lunch, in a red flannel shirt, rumpled jeans and boots, his craggy face looking disappointed, sitting with his back against a scaffold. I recognized him.
   “Hey, Sam,” I said, “Can I have a hug?”
   “Not a good idea,” he scowled, looked away.
   I knew he was dead, but figured he’d be bothered by my reminding him.
   “You know, thirty years ago, I directed a few of your plays.”
   He didn’t seem to care which ones.
   "I liked the monologues in ‘Action,’ I said. “They worked real good. Once the actor muffed his lines, but got around to it, made the point.”
   “I hate when that happens,” he muttered, looking around, realizing it wasn’t his set, his movie or his play. He didn't seem hungry, but glanced at someone else eating.
   “Hey, can I ask you–“
   Another crew man got up, tripping over Sam’s legs.
   “What was that?” he looked back.
   “That’s Sam. He’s dead.”
   The crew man seemed like he was trying to laugh, couldn’t see what he tripped on.
   “Well, better get,” Sam said, and leaped off the edge of the cement flooring, which had become a few floors higher above ground. He just stepped off and disappeared into the wind.
   The other crew man stopped, about the walk away, wavered. “But what did he–”
   “You saw him?” I asked.
   “Saw what?” he seemed confused by himself.
   “Never mind.”

     * * *

I think Sam would have appreciated that dream, since it felt like a scene from one of his plays. People feeling out of place, confused, stunned by the loss of their purpose, or knowing a dark secret, were part of his artistic style. 

Shepard's death has been well documented, and one of his first collaborators, Patti Smith, had some touching remembrances of the Pultizer Prize-winning playwright and understated film actor. Author Don Shewey wrote about being Shepard's biographer years ago, and how the playwright was in a way his alter-ego.

Actually, those plays I mentioned in my dream to dead Sam were preceded by my small production of poems and prose pieces from his first collection, Hawk Moon.  As a sophomore at Kent State University's Theatre Department, I enlisted some actors and musicians to join me in performing most of the collection, with live musical interludes of Rolling Stones songs and other music.