True West was first performed at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, where Shepard was the resident playwright. It had its world premiere there on July 10, 1980. It was originally directed by Robert Woodruff and starred Peter Coyote as Austin, Jim Haynie as Lee, Tom Dahlgren as Saul Kimmer, and Carol McElheney as Mom. The production moved from the Magic Theatre to the Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco in 1981. Ebbe Roe Smith replaced Peter Coyote as Austin. The production later moved to Joseph Papp's The Public Theater in New York City, where it starred Tommy Lee Jones and Peter Boyle.
It was revived by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, with then fairly unknown actors Gary Sinise (who also directed the production) and John Malkovich playing the leads. With Shepard's approval, this production made a big splash when it transferred to New York, where it opened at Cherry Lane Theatre. It ran for 762 performances and, later in the run, the leads were taken over by Bruce Lyons, James Belushi, Gary Cole, Erik Estrada, Dennis Quaid and Randy Quaid. The production was so successful that a television recording (featuring Sinise and Malkovich) aired on PBS.
In 2000, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly played the leads on Broadway, where they switched parts every so often during the run. They solicited to share a single joint Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play for the production, but were instead each nominated individually. This revival was also nominated for Best Play and Best Director (Matthew Warchus).
In 2002 Bruce Willis and Chad Smith starred in a television movie version staged as a play, filmed in front of a live audience and directed by Gary Halvorson with Andrew Alburger and Danielle Kennedy in supporting roles.
In 2003, Wilson Milam took a lavish and updated production (replacing the smashing of a typewriter with a modern working laptop, and using 20 working toasters) to the Bristol Old Vic with Phil Daniels as Lee and Andrew Tiernan as Austin. The production caused the Bristol Old Vic to remove the first 3 rows of seats for fear that the audience would be harmed and installed a Perspex shield for safety reasons. It did however receive much critical acclaim from the British National Press and was cited as Pick of the Week in The Guardian newspaper (October 27, November 2, 2003).
In 2013, Soulpepper, Toronto's largest theatre company, presented Patricia Hamilton, Stuart Hughes and Mike Ross in a production directed by Nancy Palk at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.
Pittsburgh Public Theater's production was directed by Pamela Berlin. It ran from November 7 through December 8, 2013, at the O'Reilly Theater, Pittsburgh Public Theater's home in the heart of the Downtown Cultural District.
Citizen's Theatre, Glasgow. October 29 - November 16, 2013. Directed by Philip Breen, starring Alex Ferns and Eugene O'Hare.
Ivy Arts Centre, University of Surrey, February 24, 2015. Performed by Lone Twin (http://www.lonetwin.com/).