Lynn Nottage: ‘He told me to own all of my words’
Wednesday 2 August 2017 14.06 BST
At a time when people were writing plays set in living rooms and gardens, Sam Shepard’s were set in backyards and motels. He took us to a different kind of landscape that hadn’t been explored on the American stage. More than most, he figured out a way to speak to the restlessness of a generation in the 70s and 80s.
I had a one-off encounter with him in Utah. I’m a playwright, not much of a performer, and I had decided to perform some of my own writing. I picked a very remote setting where I figured no one would know me. It was at a bar at about 10pm. When I got there, I was the only person of colour. My piece was about all the times in my life that I’ve been called the N-word. People were pretty drunk. It was almost like doing a comedy night. I was extremely nervous but I muscled through. When I was done, I was sweating profusely. I went immediately to the bar and ordered a drink and someone said: “Can I give you a piece of advice?” I looked up and it was Sam Shepard and I was like, Oh shit! It’s Sam Shepard – of course you can give me a piece of advice!
I guess he was there because he was making a movie. He bought me a drink and we ended up hanging out until 3am. He said he could tell I was really nervous and he was like: “Fuck these people. This is your writing. Next time you do it, you have to live every single moment and own all of your words. And not be intimidated, not be scared.” I’ve always clung to that advice.