The Rise and Fall of the Horse Dreamer in Sam Shepard’s Drama

  • Ana Fernández-Caparrós Turina University of Valencia Universitat de València


Whereas several theatrical works show Sam Shepard’s longstanding fascination with horses, none of them until the premiere at the Abbey Theatre in 2007 of Kicking a Dead Horse had brought a dead equine to the stage. The striking stage image of the cadaver of a horse dominating the stark setting and the figure of the horsekicker is critically assessed in this article, establishing a comparison with its kindred predecessor, the dreamer of horses in Geography of a Horse Dreamer (1974). Beyond the most obvious connection between these plays, the fact that actor Stephen Rea played the main role in them both, their evolving representation of the animal and the characters’ engagement with it all deserve critical attention as they become a metaphor which reveals the transformations in Shepard’s latest style of theatre. The trope of the horse dreamer is associated with creative freedom. The dramatization of the loss of American dreams in both plays reveals their divergent stance on human imaginative potential and also on the creative process, as the “style of dreaming” is closely related to the style of writing.Keywords: Sam Shepard; horses; dreams; imagination; animal studies 

Author Biography

Ana Fernández-Caparrós Turina, University of Valencia Universitat de València
Ana Fernández-Caparrós Turina is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Valencia. Her main field of research is contemporary American drama. She is the author of the volume El teatro de Sam Shepard en el Nueva York de los sesenta (PUV, 2015), published by Biblioteca Javier Coy d’estudis nord-americans; and co-editor of Poéticas porvenir, políticas del duelo (Verbum, 2014) and of the special issue “Staging the Sounds of a Nation: The Poetic Soundscapes of the USA” (Complutense Journal of English Studies, 2015). She has published articles in journals such as Contemporary Theatre Review, Journal of Contemporary Drama in English and South Atlantic Review.


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