The Truth and Its Characters – an interview with Del Shores
By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
Photo: Mat Hayes, Jason Grindle
Playwright Del Shores will be in Atlanta to perform his one-person show ‘Six Characters in Search of a Play’ on May 20th at Out Front. Before the performance of his one-man show, Shores will host special talk-back sessions following the new spin on his classic comedy, “Sordid Lives” playing May 19th and 20th at Out Front Theater. He will also host a screening of his latest film “A Very Sordid Wedding” the afternoon of the 19th, also at Out Front, in association with Out On Film. Peach caught up with the busy playwright to talk sordid reality and being alone on stage.
Following the performance of “Sordid Lives” at Out Front on May 19th and 20th, you will host special talk-back sessions after the show. How do you feel about the out-of-the-box diversity casting of this latest production of your classic play?
I’m beyond excited. When Jacob Demlow (director) contacted me about his brilliant idea, I didn’t say yes, I said HELL YES! I made a few line alterations to accommodate the casting. I’ve had two of my other plays cast with African-American casts in Los Angeles, and they were fantastic. But this is a mixed cast, the family is black, as well as the bar brothers, “Wardell” and “Odell.” I’m giddy!
Your one-man show Six Characters in Search of a Play’ portray six characters based on real life or real-life encounters. Tell us a little about some of them?
Yes, the premise of the play is that these are real people, who have inspired me, but I haven’t placed in my plays, films or TV shows yet. You get them first, and I prove once again, I’m not really a writer, I’m a story-telling thief! In 85 minutes, the audience will hear the truth behind how I collected these eccentrics and their stories as I portray my sometimes funny, sometimes touching, off-the-rails encounters with them. The audience will meet “Yvonne”, the anti-vegetarian Dallas waitress; “Sarah”, a Trump-hating elderly actress with an inhaler in one hand and a cigarette in the other; “Jimmy Ray”, the evolving, Magic Mike-loving latent Georgia redneck; “Loraine”, the once-brilliant drama teacher who has lost her damn mind and is now obsessed with porn; “Marsha”, the monkey-hating lesbian with COPD; and “Aunt Bobby Sue”, the racist Republican with a heart of gold.
How (or what) do you draw from your personal experience when writing?
Honestly, it’s just part of my fabric, my make-up. I have always been that person who loves to observe and collect. I cannot help myself. So beware, if you meet me, you may inspire a character in one of my projects! And of course, as a Southern Baptist preacher’s kid, my damage fuels my work.
You obviously enjoy writing comedic material – how is it to be on stage performing it yourself?
There is a line in this play – “Nobody is a bigger fan of my work than I am.” I love performing my material, my lines, my characters. I love hearing the laughs and also the sniffles because there is one character that takes us into drama. To tell you the truth, learning this play – because it is completely scripted and memorized – was very difficult. I write messy. The way I feel people really talk. Actors love my dialogue, but they do often complain about how hard it is to memorize. My characters go off on tangents like we do in real life, so it’s in linear. But when you have it down, it’s so much fun to perform. I’m having a blast now, but I’m not going to lie; Del the actor was cursing Del, the writer in the rehearsal process. And my director Emerson Collins, who I’ve directed many times, made me keep my own rule about “say the words as written.”
How has your material evolved from “Sordid Lives” to “Six Characters in Search of a Play”?
I think as artists we are always evolving and hopefully growing. “Sordid Lives” was written in 1995 and came to life on stage in 1996. It was my coming out play. It was my first time to really write uncensored, not giving a shit about what my family thought, what the critics thought. It was truly a big breakthrough in my writing, and since, I feel that my work is devoid of fear in what I write. (I mean, read my Facebook page and Twitter feed!) The response of “Sordid Lives” from audiences, from my LGBTQ community, gave me so much strength to be that outspoken artist and activist that I’ve become. I speak my mind, my truth, in real life and in my work.
Why is your native Texas such a huge inspiration to you?
I write what you know! I love Texas and Southern characters. They are my dirt. I’m proud of my heritage and will always be connected and inspired by my state and the South and the people there.
What else has Del Shores going on right – besides touring with a one-man show?
I have some TV shows in development with my producing partner Emerson Collins (who directed “Six Characters”). I also have a new play called “This Side of Crazy” which is thrilling me as I write it. You’re going to see a lot of Del Shores projects in 2018 and 2019 – and beyond. I’m not even close to being done!
Anything you’d like to add?
Just that I’m so grateful to Atlanta. I have amazing fans and friends in this amazing city, as well as great partnerships with Out Front Theatre and Out on Film. Big thanks to Paul, Jacob and Jim and Craig! And Atlanta – please come see “Sordid Lives”, the screening of “A Very Sordid Wedding” (I’ll be at “Sordid Lives” on May 19th and 20th and the afternoon screening of “Wedding” on the 19th, as well as my own show of “Six Characters” on the evening of 20th! And thanks for supporting theatre, LGBT films, and my work. So grateful!