Curse of the Starving Class


Writers: Sam Shepard


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Dark Comedy
Unit/Single Set
Time & Place
rural california, the present (1978)
Cast Size
Ideal for
professional theatre, regional theatre, university / college theatre, community theatre
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes adult, young adult, late teen characters


Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class is a darkly comic look into the world of dysfunctional Tate family, as they struggle amongst themselves for food, freedom, and meaning in their run-down lives. Tate Family patriarch Weston, is an alcoholic, who leaves his family for days at a time, buys into scam business deals, and owes money to all the wrong people in town. His wife, Ella, is utterly burned-out and will do just about anything to leave her husband behind. Their daughter, Emma, is a smart and rebellious teen, itching to get away from her crazy home. The entire upkeep of the farm falls on the shoulders of their idealistic son, Wesley, the only one who seems to have some hope for the family left. The “curse,” as Ella puts it, of the Tate family is that they have nitroglycerine — liquid dynamite — running in their blood. Perhaps that’s the reason they’re stuck where they are: broke, hungry, and fighting. Whatever the cause, the Tates will do just about anything to raise themselves out of the downward spiral into which they’ve fallen. But is it even possible, at this point? Or are some families, Shepherd asks, just cursed before they begin?

Lead Characters

Curse of the Starving Class guide sections