Meet our Lambs!

Posted Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 5:46pm

Our lambs for Curse of the Starving Class arrived safely last Saturday! We thought it would be nice to give everyone some background on our new friends.

The lambs used in this production are purebred Southdowns which are known for their gentle disposition. They were removed from their mothers because the mothers delivered more babies than she could raise. They are healthy, bottle fed lambs and every effort is being made to ensure their continued health. They are owned by the Manatawna/Saul 4-H Club which is located here in Philadelphia. Members of the club are carefully monitoring the care of the animals while they are with the theater.

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Sam Shepard on...his family

Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 1:25pm

Our Production Dramaturg William Steinberger has pulled some key quotes from Sam Shepard. We will share Mr. Shepard's thoughts about his past, his family, and himself.

Sam Shepard on his family:

“Those Midwestern women from the forties suffered an incredible psychological assault, mainly by men who were disappointed in a way that they didn’t understand. While growing up I saw that assault over and over again, and not only in my own family. These were men who came back from the war, had to settle down, raise a family and send the kids to school—and they just couldn’t handle it. There was something outrageous about it. I still don’t know what it was—maybe living through those adventures in the war and then having to come back to suburbia. Anyway, the women took it on the nose, and it wasn’t like they said, ‘Hey Jack, you know, down the road, I’m leaving.’ They sat there and took it. I think there was a kind of heroism in those women. They were tough and selfless in a way. What they sacrificed at the hands of those maniacs . . .”  – The Paris Review, Spring 1997

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Sam Shepard on...his past

Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 3:46pm

Our Production Dramaturg William Steinberger has pulled some key quotes from Sam Shepard. We will share Mr. Shepard's thoughts about his past, his family, and himself.

Sam Shepard on his past:

“The California I knew, old rancho California, is gone. It just doesn’t exist, except maybe in little pockets. I lived on the edge of the Mojave Desert, an area that used to be farm country. There were all these fresh produce stands with avocados and date palms. You could get a dozen artichokes for a buck or something. Totally wiped out now.  – The Paris Review, Spring 1997

“These guys – my father’s generation – were coming out of World War II. I can’t help but think that these wars had something to do with the psychological state that they came back in. I mean imagine coming back into the Eisenhower fifties. It must not have been easy. At all. Where everything was wonderful, the front lawns were all being taken care of, there was a refrigerator in everybody’s house. Everybody had a Chevy, and these guys had just been bombing the shit out of Germany and Italy and the South Pacific and then they come back; I mean it just must have been unbelievable. I mean nobody ever really talks about that. Back then it was taboo to talk about it. ‘Nobody’s crazy; everybody’s in good shape.’ I mean can you believe it? And this happened across the country of course, but my dad came from an extremely rural farm community – wheat farmers – in Illinois, and next thing he knows he’s flying B-24s over the South Pacific, over Rumania, dropping bombs and killing people he couldn’t even see. And then from that into trying to raise a family and growing up in white America, you know. I mean it’s extraordinary...”  – The Cambridge Companion to Sam Shepard

 “World War II was a trauma that was mysterious. The women didn’t understand it, the men didn’t understand it and the medicine was booze.” The Almeida Theatre

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Curse as Hinge

Posted Monday, February 13, 2012 - 5:56pm

By William Steinberger

Curse of the Starving Class, Sam Shepard’s first proper family drama, functions as a decisive hinge in the playwright’s remarkable career. The play marks Shepard’s transition from his earlier avant-garde works to his renowned family plays, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child (1978), True West (1980), and Fool for Love (1983). The early plays feature long, winding, image-rich monologues, the ample presence of non-literal language and a lack of resolution and narrative structure. The noted critic Richard Gilman has suggested of Shepard’s early plays that he “learned alongside [the Absurdists], … or in their wake, in the same atmosphere of rejection of linear construction, cause and effect sequences, logical procedures, coherent or consistent characters, and the tying of language to explicit meanings.”

In Curse, Shepard matches these experimental techniques with the pillars of American drama dating back to Eugene O’Neill, building a narrative around a conventional three-act structure, all taking place in a recognizable domestic location. The play features a family, the Tates of Southern California, comprised of familiar types engaged in definable conflicts. Curse also fits Shepard’s gift for droll, surrealistic humor within these familiar familial conflicts, taking a less naturalistic approach to the family than his predecessors.

Dramaturg John Glore notes that Curse is the first of Shepard’s plays to reach “for classical dimensions by giving us something – a Meaning –that will resound long after its theatrical sensation has faded. If Shepard’s early plays were firecrackers –short, dazzling, potent, abrupt—Curse strives to give a deeper, more penetrating and lasting rumble of power.” In developing this deeper power, Curse introduces many of the themes – heredity, family, and the myth of the American Dream among them – that mark his plays to come. Shepard’s great family plays show dueling and disconnected American generations, people without firm roots to a land. As he has stated, “I don’t know what the American Dream is. I do know that it doesn’t work. Not only doesn’t it work, the myth of the American Dream has created extraordinary havoc, and it’s going to be our demise.”

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Interview with Richard Hamburger

Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 2:57pm

Production Dramaturg William Steinberger sits down with director Richard Hamburger to discuss Curse of the Starving Class.

William Steinberger: You’re a longtime admirer of Curse of the Starving Class. What initially drew you to the play, and what about it seems particularly right for an American audience today?

Richard Hamburger: Even though it was written in the 1970s, CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS is particularly resonant today with the mortgage crisis having led to so many people losing their farms, houses and land.  Weston, the father in the play, says, “I always figured on the future. I banked on it. I was banking on it getting better. It couldn’t get worse, so I figured it’d get better. I figured that’s why everyone wants you to buy things. Buy refrigerators. Buy cars, houses, lots, invest. They wouldn’t be so generous if they didn’t figure you had it comin’ in. At some point it had to be comin’ in. So I went along with it. Why not borrow if you know it’s coming in.” Critic Marc Robinson calls the play an  ‘exploded version of the save-the-farm play,’ and it is that original, incendiary, aspect that intrigues me most.  Despite the play’s tragic dimensions, it also has an irresistibly droll, surrealistic sense of humor. Shepard is a wizard at revealing American patterns and proclivities in an unpredictable and intriguing way, without ever preaching.


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