Buried Child

Buried Child Study Guide

Sam Shepard wrote Buried Child, perhaps his best-known play and the play that won him the Pulitzer in 1979, while he was the playwright-in-residence at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. It is the play most widely credited with turning Shepard into a famous playwright, and has been revived many times since its initial production. The premiere took place at the Magic Theatre in 1978, directed by Robert Woodruff. In October of that year, it premiered in New York, again directed by Robert Woodruff.

Buried Child follows the story of an Illinois family as the family members each piece together their family history, with limited powers of recollection. It is a dark, absurdist, and dreamlike meditation on family, economic depression, dissolution, secrets, and growth. Shepard said that Buried Child and Tooth of Crime were both difficult plays to write, in contrast with his other work. At the time of its premiere, Richard Edger wrote in The New York Times that "as a piece of writing, it may be less interesting but it seems to work far better on the stage. In the very gifted production directed by Robert Woodruff, it manages to be vividly alive even as it is putting together a surreal presentation of American intimacy withered by rootlessness."

The play was revived in 1996 for a Broadway production directed by Gary Sinise. The revival starred James Gammon, Terry Kinney, and Lois Smith. An off-Broadway production took place at The New Group in 2016 directed by Scott Elliott and starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.