Cowboy Mouth

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Cowboy Mouth is a one act play by Sam Shepard (1943–2017)[1] and Patti Smith (1946-)[2].

The original text

A short piece in the Theatre of the Absurd mold, exploring the notion of the "American dream" - the title of the play coming from the idea that modern Americans were looking for a "saint with a cowboy mouth".[3]

The world premiere was at The Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland on April 12, 1971, directed by Gordon Stewart, while the American premiere was at The American Place Theatre in New York City on April 29, 1971 - directed by Robert Glaudini, with Shepard and Smith in the leading roles.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into Afrikaans entitled Heiland by Birrie le Roux, produced at the Woordfees 2013.

Performance history in South Africa

1980: Performed at the Market Theatre, directed by Charles Comyn with a cast that included Jeremy Crutchley, Michele Maxwell, Mkhosi "Eddie" McAndi . (One source states that the director had been Sam Shepard - but this is probably a mistake, referring to the first American production, since no evidence could be found that Shepard had ever visited or worked in South Africa).

1980: Produced and directed by Neil McCarthy at the People's Space in November, in a double bill with Red Cross, with Bryony Mortimer, Gary Carter, Natalie Gamsu, Dawid Minnaar and Megan Kruskal.

1991: This play was the debut production of the Makeshift Moon Theatre Company and was presented at the National Arts Festival, 1directed by Ashraf Jamal, starring Tim Greene, Rosalind Butler and Neil Cave.

2009: Produced by The Mechanicals at the Intimate Theatre in Cape Town, in September/October. Directed and designed by Christopher Weare, with Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Nicholas Pauling, supported by Guy de Lancey, Scott Sparrow and Emily Child.

2013: The Afrikaans text, Heiland, produced in the Klein Libertas Teater at the Woordfees in Stellenbosch (opening on 2 March). Directed by Rocco Pool, with Mariechen Vosloo, Roxanne Bain and Carel Nel.


Market Theatre Foundation material held by Historical Papers Research Archive, University of the Witwatersrand, [4] (re Market Theatre production, 1980).

Supplement to Cape Argus, 19 November 1980.

Ruphin Coudyzer. 2023. Annotated list of his photographs of Market Theatre productions. (Provided by Coudyzer)

National Arts Festival programme, 1991. 161.

Vrye Weekblad 12-18 July 1991.

Cape Times 15 Feb 2011.

Programme: Woordfees 1-10 Maart 2013.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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