Shores, Sissies, and Southern Baptists…Oh my!
Well-known producer/writer/director Del Shores has worked in the entertainment business in a number of capacities from his work as an acclaimed playwright to directing and producing for Showtime and all of the major networks, but don’t be
fooled by the seemingly glitzy exterior. Despite the bullet points on his resume, Del Shores is about as down-to-earth as they come. Shores is known to carry on lengthy conversations with anyone who is interested in him or his work and makes an effort to connect to people in a very real way every time he gets the chance. Perhaps this earthy tenacity is part of what makes Shores’ work resonate so clearly with almost everyone who is exposed to it from gay urbanites to straight rural police officers. No matter the viewer’s background, this Texan transplant to Hollywood is almost guaranteed to strike a chord in others that in unparalleled by almost any of his contemporaries. Recently, Del Shores took time out of his very busy schedule to talk with O&AN about his work and a little film project called “Southern Baptist Sissies.”
DK: You are a very busy man lately. I hear that you are in the process of reviving all six of your stage plays in LA. That’s no small task!
DS: Not at all! We’re starting out with “Southern Baptists Sissies” and “Sordid Lives” and one by one we’re going to roll them all out. I figured that if I start with those two at least I would get to rest a bit in-between because I know they will both have long runs. It’s not even really a traditional theatre season that we’re planning. As one show starts to dip at the box office we’ll start rehearsing the others. Two will be running at all times.
DK: As well liked and well known as you are here in Nashville, what can your fans here do to see these shows onstage?
DS: It’s interesting that you should ask about that because there is someone in Nashville right now who is trying to obtain the rights to produce “Southern Baptist Sissies” onstage there. I get really worried about outside productions because sometimes I see them and they aren’t so great. However, I’ve heard some really great things about this gentleman and he seems to have passion for the project so who knows what might happen? After having visited during pride a couple of years ago and seeing how big “Sordid Lives” was there I think that Nashville is definitely ready for “Southern Baptist Sissies.” It would be awesome to see it put on there.
DK: Does it ever give you pause when you realize how many people are simply fascinated with your work?
DS: It is incredibly humbling to me when I step back and take a look. I really have to pause and be grateful for the people who have responded to my work and have allowed me to continue to do it. I wonder sometimes how it happened this way. There are so many people in Hollywood putting out work and somehow the audiences have hooked into mine. I can’t explain it. It’s all very humbling but I have to admit that I love the attention.
DK: What are some of the things that fans can look forward to in 2006 from you?
DS: We are doing “A Season of Shores,” which is all of the stage plays in LA. That will run long into 2006 and I am currently in negotiations with Logo to develop a series based on “Sordid Lives.” I can’t really go into much detail about that because it’s still in the negotiation stage. I think everyone will go crazy when it finally happens.
DK: Another big thing on your plate is the upcoming transformation of “Southern Baptist Sissies” into a film a la “Sordid Lives” and “Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got the Will.” What made you decide that you wanted to turn this piece into a screenplay?
DS: I’m often perceived by others to be a comedy writer but this piece is really much darker as it explores what happens when you are gay and raised in the church. After I dealt with my being gay I felt really angry with how I was taught all of this self-loathing in church and the current climate in our country tells me that this piece is now more timely than ever before. Someone recently shared a story with me about a minister in the south who had an affair with another guy. After he was found out his wife left him and the church kicked him out. His family stopped speaking to him and he had decided to kill himself after he returned home from visiting friends here in LA. While he was here one of his friends took him to see “Southern Baptist Sissies” onstage and for the first time it started making sense that there were others like him. He claimed that the play saved his life. When I heard his account I decided that I wanted to tell my story on a broader level and now I have this real drive to put it onto the big screen. The most personal and the most tragic letters that I get every day have to be about how that piece has healed or touched or allowed someone to feel not so alone.
DK: What has been the biggest challenge to transforming the stage play for “Southern Baptists Sissies” into a film?
DS: “Southern Baptist Sissies” will need a bigger budget than what we have used previously. It’s got to be a much prettier film than “Sordid Lives” because it’s not as gritty. We made “Sordid Lives” on a shoestring but I feel like this project deserves a better treatment. We’ve worked hard trying to get partners to raise the money. But it’s not easy to raise money for a film called “Southern Baptist Sissies” in Hollywood. The studios are definitely not interested in touching it.
DK: How have you managed to overcome that obstacle?
DS: My husband Jason and Victoria Alonso who produced “Sordid Lives” as well as our friend lyricist and composer Joe Patrick Ward formed a non-profit organization called the Gay Media Arts Project in response. The group is designed to help finance any kind of worthy gay message in the arts and the first project is “Southern Baptist Sissies.” What is really wonderful about it is that so many of our fans and supporters are able to contribute to the making of this film and get a tax deduction while feeling like they had a part in making this movie. I love that the community will make this film because it really is everybody’s story.
DK: For our readers who may be interested in helping see this project succeed, what can they do to help?
DS: First, they can go to www.gaymediaartsproject.org and make a tax-deductible donation. If they would like they can request that the funds that they donate be earmarked for the production of “Southern Baptist Sissies.” We have also been contacted by people wanting to have events in other cities. We have wonderful partners in Nashville in Chuck Long and Kendall Moore who have been helping us plan to have an event in Nashville where we will bring some of the stars in and show a piece of the play as a fundraiser. Anybody anywhere can have a cocktail party and make it a benefit for our organization.
For more information on “Southern Baptist Sissies” or to make a donation to the Gay Media Arts Project please visit www.southernbaptistsissies.com or www.gaymediaartsproject.org.Anyone interested in writing Del Shores is invited to send an e-mail to email@example.com. Del always answers all of his e-mail personally and enjoys corresponding with his fans around the country.