In the past five years of the Denver Theatre Examiner column, I've featured a number of interviews with many local and national names from the world of theatre for a feature titled Acts and Answered. Today, I am proud to re-launch the Acts and Answered feature with a very exciting interview.
You are most likely very familiar with the work of Del Shores, as he is the writer, director and producer for Sordid Lives, Blues for Willadean and an upcoming adaptation of his play, Southern Baptist Sissies. Mr. Shores was the writer and executive producer behind the groundbreaking Queer as Folk on Showtime for the last three seasons, and he wrote and produced for such well-known sitcoms as Dharma & Greg, Ned & Stacy and Touched By an Angel. His has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood and he continues to be a strong voice in the film and theatre communities.
A new theatre company in Denver, Illumination Theatre Productions is bringing Del Shores' Sordid Lives to the stage in Denver, and as a very exciting addition, Mr. Shores is going to be in Denver for the opening night performance. If that isn't reason enough to be excited about the Illumination Theatre Production of this tremendous play, Mr. Shores is also going to be teaching two master classes during his visit to Denver. He will be teaching an audition workshop titled “Get out of your head and trust your gut!” as well as an “Advanced Film Scene Study Workshop” that is an advanced acting class for both film and theatre actors. The workshops are very limited, so be sure to act quickly to enroll in these exciting classes.
And now, Acts and Answered with Del Shores:
Q: What is your earliest theatre memory?
A: Age 6. Sitting in the balcony of a rehearsal for "Oklahoma" at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, TX. My mother went to college when I started first grade. She was a drama major. She had to bring us to rehearsals because she couldn't afford baby sitters. I was hooked from that moment on.
Q: What makes a good show?
A: Great characters and a great story. Some laughs, some tears and a story that leaves you thinking.
Q: What makes a bad show?
A: Oh my. That list could get crazy. I don't think anybody sets out to write a bad play, a bad movie -- or to produce a good play that ends up being a bad production. Bad casting can ruin a production as can bad direction. Lack of logic and lack of passion in writing or writing something for the wrong reason can be horrific. I think you MUST be driven to tell a story. When characters need their story told and choose you as the muse, then the universe takes over and the work sails.
Q: How do you approach a new writing project?
A: I start with characters. When those voices start speaking, they dictate the journey for me.
Q: Once you are done, is it always a work in progress?
A: Beth Grant was once asked in an interview - "When does Del Shores stop rewriting his plays?" And she said, "The day after you close!" In that, after my first production, I rarely go back and change things unless I'm adapting the film. I let the play live as the history it was and the place that I was as a writer when it was produced.
"I let the play live as the history it was and the place that I was as a writer when it was produced."
Q: How do you know when you are done?
A: When I sit in the audience and the work just sails and the changes or questions stop entering your head. In that, I recently returned to my play YELLOW (directing a production in Dallas) and a line hit me that I added that I had never thought of. I was lucky that the play was just being published and I was able to add it to the play.
Q: What do you think the general public doesn't know about live theatre?
A: That they are the missing ingredient, that they are the final character.
Q: What advice would you offer to a new playwright that is just starting out?
A: Read plays. Read many plays. Write what you know and listen to your characters. They will write the play for you.
Q: Who have been some of your artistic influences and why?
A: Tennessee Williams. Horton Foote. Preston Jones. Those come to mind. They wrote characters I could relate too. I have no words to describe my love for Mr. Williams' work. The rawness of his characters, the language and the art he brought to his work is unparalleled in my opinion. He is our greatest American playwright. Mr. Foote wrote mostly within a very small geographical area and nobody wrote characters from the dirt, with such amazing real dialogue, with such beautiful simplicity. And Preston Jones, a Texas playwright, made me want to write. When I read his plays ("The Texas Trilogy") I felt such a kindred spirit.
"nobody wrote characters from the dirt, with such amazing real dialogue"
Q: Tell me about Sordid Lives, how did that script come to be?
A: It poured out of me once I started. It started with a short story called "Nicotine Fit" about Sissy, Latrelle and LaVonda reunited because of Peggy's untimely death, which took place three days after Sissy quit smoking. I wanted to see if I could write in that style (prose). When I was coming out, I started writing my therapy sessions, which became Ty's sessions. I then realized I had a play on my hands and it just poured. The law of least effort.
Q: How has the success of Sordid Lives been for you as a writer and producer?
A: It's the gift that keeps giving. People can't seem to get enough, so I keep returning to the characters. I love those denizens of Winters, TX. Sordid Lives has given me an amazing fan base, a brand if you will. And I am grateful!
Q: Do you get to see a lot of the regional productions of your work?
A: I am invited to a handful every year and always enjoy seeing the story retold with different actors.
Q: What has enabled you to come to Denver for this production?
A: Dale Haltom reached out to me and we brainstormed how it could happen. I was available and it came together! I'm thrilled to be coming!
Q: What is one movie that you can quote line for line?
A: Tootsie is to me what Sordid Lives is to so many of my fans. I love every frame of that film.
Illumination Theatre Productions Presents:
July 26 through August 17
At the John Hand Theatre
7653 E. 1st Place
Denver, CO 80226
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 PM
Saturday Matinees August 10 and 17 at 2:00 PM
Tickets are $20 for Adults
$18 for Military/Students/Seniors
CLICK HERE for tickets and details
Del Shores Master Classes
Saturday July 27
9:00 AM to 1:00 PM: Get Out of Your Head And Trust Your Gut
2:00 PM to 6:00 PM: Advanced Film Scene Study Workshop
$125 per class or $200 for both
CLICK HERE to register or for more information