Sam Shepard died Thursday, July 27 at his home in Kentucky at age 73 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease).

I could elaborate on Shepard's career, but I'll let you look him up on IMDB. Suffice to say that for more than 50 years, the Illinois native worked as a playwright, actor, and director. His plays were featured at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater. His work has been honored with several Obie Awards and nominations for Tony Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy Award, and an Academy Award.

My first exposure to Shepard's work came as a first-year theatre major at Illinois State University, where one of my professors, Sandra Zielinski, directed a production of his play, A Lie of the Mind. I worked scenery for the show, but also took every opportunity to watch rehearsals. I was primarily interested in observing my mentor direct, but I was immediately taken in by the raw emotions at the heart of this family's dysfunction and how authentic its portrayal felt. The spousal abuse at the opening, the relationships between the two families joined by the husband and wife, these were written with a tender, yet transparent voice.

Shepard is one of the writers who inspired me to take up writing myself. In fact, a couple of years after that first year as a theatre major, I would write my first play and switch to the English department to pursue a writing career. The rest, as they say, is history.

Dom De Bellis is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, coach, and minister of the Gospel. When he's not serving his church or Boy Scout Troop, he is helping people in cities grow organic food.

#samshepard #illinoisstate #steppenwolf #lougehrigsdisease

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