In a barren farm home, occupied by a family filled with suppressed violence and unease, there lays a dark secret nobody will admit to, until one of them finally unearths the mystery.

“Buried Child,” the 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by critically acclaimed American playwright Sam Shepard, will be presented by the WVU School of Theatre & Dance, Feb. 24-March 4, at the Creative Arts Center.

The characters are a ranting alcoholic grandfather; a sanctimonious grandmother whose mission is to keep up their “American family” fa�ade and their sons—one a former All-American footballer now back from New Mexico for unknown reasons, and the other an amputee with a few issues.

Into their midst comes a grandson none of them recognizes or remembers, and his girlfriend, who cannot comprehend the madness she is suddenly thrown into.

Steeped in mystery, humor, and stark poetry, the play plunges the audience into the subconscious of a dysfunctional family, ultimately resulting in a bizarre regeneration and rebirth of hope and fertility.

“Buried Child,” considered one of the great American dramas of the last half century, will be directed by theatre professor Jerry McGonigle, head of the WVU graduate acting program.

MFA candidate Kara Haas is an assistant director, along with undergraduate BFA theatre major Mara Nadolski, assistant director and dramaturg, who has also written a rehearsal blog for the production at:

Although the subject matter is dark, McGonigle said, the play is actually witty and funny and has almost a vaudeville quality to it.

“Audiences love it, largely due to Shepard’s writing style,” he said. “You’re shocked, but you’re also laughing. It goes back and forth between humor and danger and serves as a kind of emotional catharsis, while at the same time being intellectually stimulating.”

Shepard ranks as one of America’s most celebrated dramatists. He has written nearly 50 plays and his work has been produced across the nation, in venues ranging from Greenwich Village coffee shops to regional professional and community theatres, from college campuses to commercial Broadway houses.

Outside of his stage work, he has achieved fame as an actor, writer and director in the film industry. With a career that now spans nearly 40 years, Shepard has gained the critical regard, media attention and iconic status enjoyed by only a rare few in American theatre.

In “Buried Child,” Shepard works like a poet, using surrealism, symbolism and imagery to convey thoughts and feelings and to break up the crushing realism of the material, McGonigle said.

“In dealing with scandalous themes such as incest, infidelity and murder, the play goes beyond the shock value and the sensational,” he said. “It forces the audience to think about our appetite for morbidity and also America’s obsession with image.”

The cast of “Buried Child” features theatre students Greg Holt as Dodge, Sarah Lemanski as Hallie, Ben Roberts as Tilden, Branden Chowen as Bradley, Will Stout as Vince, McKenna Kirchner as Shelly and Todd Berkich as Father Dewis.

“Buried Child” opens in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre of the Creative Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Feb. 24) and continues at the same time Saturday (Feb. 25) and from Feb. 28-March 3. There will also be matinee performances at 2 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 26) and Sunday, March 4.

The Sunday (Feb. 26) performance will be interpreted for the hearing impaired.

Tickets are $20 for the general public, $18 for WVU faculty and staff and senior citizens, and $15 for students. There is a group rate of $10 per ticket for groups of ten or more.

Tickets are available at, the CAC, Mountainlair Box Offices or by calling (304) 293-SHOW.

For more information on this production of “Buried Child,” call (304) 293-2020 or email



CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.