Icarus's Mother

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Icarus's Mother
Written by Sam Shepard
Date premiered 1965
Original language English
Genre Drama

Icarus's Mother is a one-act play by Sam Shepard. [1]

Sam Shepard American playwright and actor

Samuel Shepard Rogers III, known professionally as Sam Shepard, was an American actor, playwright, author, screenwriter, and director whose career spanned half a century. He won ten Obie Awards for writing and directing, the most won by any writer or director. He wrote 44 plays as well as several books of short stories, essays, and memoirs. Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film The Right Stuff. He received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a master American dramatist in 2009. New York magazine described Shepard as "the greatest American playwright of his generation."

It was first staged at the Caffe Cino in 1965, directed by Michael Smith, a drama critic, with a cast that included John Coe, a veteran of the Living Theatre.

Caffe Cino was an Off-Off-Broadway theater founded in 1958 by Joe Cino. The West Village coffeehouse, located at 31 Cornelia Street, was initially imagined as a venue for poetry, folk music, and visual art exhibitions. The plays produced at the Cino, however, became most prominent, and it is now considered the "birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway".

Theatre director person overseeing the mounting of a theatre production

A theatre director or stage director is an instructor in the theatre field who oversees and orchestrates the mounting of a theatre production by unifying various endeavours and aspects of production. The director's function is to ensure the quality and completeness of theatre production and to lead the members of the creative team into realizing their artistic vision for it. The director therefore collaborates with a team of creative individuals and other staff, coordinating research, stagecraft, costume design, props, lighting design, acting, set design, stage combat, and sound design for the production. If the production he or she is mounting is a new piece of writing or a (new) translation of a play, the director may also work with the playwright or translator. In contemporary theatre, after the playwright, the director is generally the primary visionary, making decisions on the artistic concept and interpretation of the play and its staging. Different directors occupy different places of authority and responsibility, depending on the structure and philosophy of individual theatre companies. Directors use a wide variety of techniques, philosophies, and levels of collaboration.

Michael Townsend Smith is an American playwright, theatre director, impresario, critic, and lighting designer.

Those two plays, as well as Icarus' Mother and two other plays, were included in the first published collection of Shepard's play scripts, entitled Five Plays (1966).


As the play opens, a group of five people (three men, two women) are digesting a big picnic meal and belching. They are lying on a lawn near a beach, while waiting for a fireworks display to begin. Although the characters don't specifically mention the Fourth of July, a number of patriotic references are used. A jet plane is flying overhead. Various kinds of funny but tense conflicts, word games, and mind games take place among the group. Two of the men, Howard and Bill, seem to be conspiring against the others. They send up smoke signals three times from a barbecue while the others are absent and hide the fact that they're doing this. There's no explanation as to why they're sending up the signals or what the signals are supposed to mean. The two women, who have been off stage, return to boast that they have been stripping and shimmying, in an attempt to distract the jet pilot. Just as the fireworks begin, the jet plane crashes nearby, sending the other man, Frank, into an extended verbal spasm, indicating he may be on drugs or has lost his mind. His lengthy monologue contains some inspired poetry, especially among Shepard's early plays. At the end of his speech Frank staggers off stage, deeply lost and confused, while bellowing that he has just seen something memorable and historic. The two women run across the stage, announcing wildly that the jet plane has crashed. Possibly frightened and trying to comfort each other, although they could just as easily be gloating about their success, Howard and Bill silently hold hands and stare at the audience, as the offstage fireworks continue and the play ends.

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