TAP Uncovers Door County Roots to Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright

After a recent performance of Sam Shepard’s TRUE WEST (running now through April 9) at Third Avenue Playhouse in downtown Sturgeon Bay, TAP learned of a connection between the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard and Door County.
According to Door County resident Margaret Poole, Sam Shepard has visited Door County frequently throughout his life, including time when he was a boy. Ms. Poole lived across the street from Sam Shepard’s Aunt’s house in Bailey’s Harbor and remembers stories of his childhood. At one point, Poole remembers Shepard’s cousin running home terrified after Sam (Rogers) Shepard made up a story about the fox caves behind their house. Clearly, his story telling abilities began early on.
Occasional meetings with Shepard and his family punctuated Ms. Poole’s time in Baileys harbor throughout her life.
Was it life imitating art or art imitating life when Margaret Poole recognized a story in the TAP production of Sam Shepard’s TRUE WEST, running now through April 9 at the year-round professional theatre in Downtown Sturgeon Bay. In the play, two brothers (played by Doug Mancheski and Jonathan Wainwright) are staying at their Mother’s (played by Laurel Brooks) house while she is on vacation. During her time away, the sons neglect her plants and she finds on her return that none of the plants survive. Mr. Shepard’s mother, Jane Schook Rogers was visiting her sister Dottie in 1986 while Ms. Poole travelled east to visit family and friends. They agreed to house-sit while she was gone. On Margaret’s return, she found that the Schook sisters had replaced Ms. Poole’s fern (on the brink of death) with a healthy new plant which survived many years.
Ms. Poole personally met Sam Shepard in 1993, when he visited Baileys Harbor with his Mother and son. “We had a nice visit in Dottie’s house – I remember Sam saying that he remembered my great-grandmother from the times he spent visiting his grandparents because of her very dry humor.” The events described in Mr. Shepard’s short story “Place,” from his published work, CRUISING PARADISE happened at this time. “I recall a telephone apology for a hole dug by mistake in the Poole cemetery plot,” says Margaret. Years later, when asked if the short story was true, Ms. Poole remembered Shepard’s apology and was able to affirm the truth of the tale. Although she does note that Sam Shepard took some poetic license. “You can’t see Lake Michigan from there and my great-grandmother’s name was Mary (although I admit “Maude” sounds better.”
You can read the true story called “Place” in the last chapter of Shepard’s book, CRUISING PARADISE. And you can see his play, TRUE WEST, now through April 9 at Third Avenue Playhouse in downtown Sturgeon Bay.
By Sam Shepard
Third Avenue Playhouse
Now- April 9
Directed by Robert Boles
Thurs., Fri., & Sat., at 7:30
Sun. matinee at 2:00
$28  General Admission
$12  Students