True West – Sam Shepard

Sons of a desert dwelling alcoholic and a suburban wanderer clash over a film script. Austin, the achiever, is working on a script he has sold to producer Sal Kimmer when Lee, a demented petty thief, drops in. He pitches his own idea for a movie to Kimmer, who then wants Austin to junk his bleak, modern love story and write Lee’s trashy Western tale. –


I used to dread reading a lot of the texts that were assigned for school until I got to year 11 and started studying Literature rather than straight English. Though I have to admit, Macbeth and Looking for Alibrandi in year 9 were fantastic.

I think it was in year 11 or 12 Literature class that we were assigned True West for reading as our play and we also got to see a performance of it at the Malt House Theatre. Incredible show. A few scenes of it stand out so strongly in my head still. Especially the way the wayward brother uncapped his beer bottles by hitting the top of the bottle with the cap hooked on the edge of the table. If that makes any sense!

The thing that stood out to me the most was the desert setting. I’ve always had a dream to live in or stay in the desert and write so in that sense it really appealed to me. Sam Sherpard’s characters are always a little on the kooky side and so are his plays. Buried Child is my other favourite. A bit darker, though.

The other scene that stood out to me a lot was the toast scene. I can’t say much more because it’s a spoiler and I think it’s best to go into this book completely fresh!

I’ve read this play multiple times since we finished studying it and it will always remain one of my favourites. I recommend you read it if you’re interested in any of the following: deserts, manuscripts, travel tales, mental breakdowns, criminals, toast, and family ties.


  • Toast!
  • Desert setting
  • Interesting characters that keep you guessing
  • Very satisfying plot structure (you’ll know what I mean when you read it!

What’s your favourite play or what would you love to see performed on stage?


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