Actor Drake Shannon returns to Boise to produce Sam Shepard’s ‘True West’ at BSU

Drake Shannon, left, and Jacob Grodnik play brothers Lee and Austin in Sam Shepard’s “True West.” The acting duo are producing the play at Boise State University’s Danny Peterson Theater.
Drake Shannon, left, and Jacob Grodnik play brothers Lee and Austin in Sam Shepard’s “True West.” The acting duo are producing the play at Boise State University’s Danny Peterson Theater.

Actor Drake Shannon caught the acting bug in Boise when he was 6 at a somewhat auspicious occasion in the city’s history. Director Fred Norman cast Shannon in his 1984 production of “My Fair Lady,” which opened the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts — the theater named for Shannon’s grandmother.

The production also featured then-Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne as Freddy Eynsford-Hill.

“Fred was directing me, and telling me to find my truth,” Shannon says. “I didn’t know what he was talking about, but it really piqued my interest. Then I remember walking out on stage, and there were like 2,000 people in the audience. That was a really interesting feeling.”

Shannon went on to do plays at Bishop Kelly High School and then majored in drama at Pepperdine University. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles, where he continues to hone his craft at the fabled Beverly Hills Playhouse, while writing screenplays and acting.

He’s been in a few commercials, and written and acted in several films, including his award-winning “Land of Leopold” (2014). He spent last summer shooting his short film “Neon Idaho” in Horseshoe Bend. It is about two thieves who get caught up in a gas station robbery on the way to commit their crime.

Shannon and his acting partner, Jacob Grodnik, are bringing their latest theater project to Idaho. It’s a traveling production of Sam Shepard’s “True West,” starring the duo at the Danny Peterson Theatre at Boise State University.

The production also features Boise actors Nick Garcia and Hollis Welsh.

Set in the Southern California desert, “True West” explores the mythology of the American West. Shepard wrote it in 1980 as part of a trilogy of family plays that also features “Curse of the Starving Class” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Buried Child.”

“True West” is a dark comedy that turns to tragedy with its story about two brothers. Austin (Grodnik) is an Ivy League-educated Hollywood screenwriter on the brink of a big deal. Lee (Shannon) is a drifter and small-time criminal who lives from time to time in the remote California desert.

Lee crashes in on Austin house-sitting at their mother’s Palm Springs home while she is in Alaska. As the play progresses, their similarities — from their relationship with their absent father to their frustration with their own lives — become apparent.

Shannon, 32, and Grodnik, 26, both live in Los Angeles and plan to produce this play in the places that are mentioned in the script.

In the first scene in their mom’s kitchen, Lee references her collection of Idaho decal plates: “Who in the hell wants to eat off a plate with the state of Idaho starin’ ya’ in the face?”

They also want to produce the play in Los Angeles, Alaska and Palm Springs, switching roles for each production.

In Boise, Shannon plays Lee, but he feels closer to Austin’s character, he says.

“I’ve written 30 screenplays, pitched agents, done all the things that Austin talks about,” Shannon says. “I really like Shepard. I’ve never met him but had lunch one day with Patti Smith (the rock star who had a longtime relationship with the playwright and actor). I never had a brother, but neither did he.”

‘True West’

7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 18, to Saturday, May 20, 2 p.m. Sunday, May 21, Danny Peterson Theatre, inside the Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane, Boise. Admission by donation.

Watch the trailer for Drake Shannon’s “Land of Leopold”

More arts events

▪  There still are free tickets left to a performance by The 5 Browns, an unusual family classical music ensemble who will perform at the Morrison Center. The siblings are graduates of the Juilliard School, where they all studied piano. They will perform a mix of solos, duos and complex five-piano arrangements of classical and popular standards at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 25, at the Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane. Get your free ticket at the box office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday.

▪  Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, May 12, for the Boise performance of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert” at the Morrison Center, which will take place at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14. The tour is produced by CineConcerts and presented in partnership with the Boise Philharmonic.

The Boise Phil musicians and the tour’s conductor, Justin Freer, will perform the entire John Williams score from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first in the film series, while the film shows in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.

Tickets run $54 to $84 at

▪  One of the shows from the Night Vale Presents family of podcasts is hitting Boise. The Orbiting Human Circus will perform its show The Music Tapes, a mix of musical performance, storytelling, games, theater and performance art. This crew has played in venues from opera houses to living rooms to a roving circus tent. 7 p.m. Friday, May 12, at The Olympic, 1009 Main St., Boise. $15.

▪  Meet “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip creator and writer Stephan Pastis from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at the Boise Public Library main branch, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Pastis is on a tour with his classic strip and a new book, “Pearls Hogs the Road: A Pearls Before Swing Treasury” ($18.99). The attorney-turned-cartoonist will show some of his favorite “Pearls” strips from the past few years and sign copies of his new book.