KB Productions has built a reputation for using the stage to bring Nashville audiences face-to-face with difficult issues. The company’s Nashville, and probably Tennessee, premiere of Del Shores’ play, The Trials & Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife, definitely fits the bill. In Housewife, Shores tackles abuse, and in this unsentimental look, Shores (author of Sordid Lives, Southern Baptist Sissies, and Daddy’s Dyin’: Who’s Got the Will)  turns our gaze on a woman who decides she has finally had enough.

The play centers on small-town, trailer trash, Texas housewife, Willadean, who is trapped in her life by a controlling, abusive husband. Her only tiny pleasures are watching television with a neighbor a learning words from the dictionary. Having lost her daughter to a car crash and her gay son to her husband’s intolerance, Willadean seems to have lost it all, including all traces of self respect. Her husband’s indiscretions with a new neighbor, however, lead her to finally take her life into her own hands.

The show, which Shores said is “probably my most critically acclaimed,” is billed as a “dramedy.” That alone might be enough to give potential audiences pause: after all, any touch of comedy in a play about domestic violence and abuse, the kind of horrors that are the center of this play, might seem in poor taste.

Shores recognizes this fully. “If it’s not disclosed, even people familiar with Sissies go, ‘WOW! It’s so dark!’ I think it has one of the funniest scenes I've ever written, but the subject matter is just horrific. It was certainly the hardest play I ever wrote: doing the research, getting inside the heads of the abused and the abuser... It took me a while to unlock that. I can't write until I understand each character. When I teach writing and acting, I always say scratch deeper, and I challenge myself the same way.”

What is the reception of such dark comedy about such a sensitive issue? “It’s always positive,” Shores said. “The show is edgy if it’s done right. You have to really stage that violence convincingly, and that is REALLY disturbing to see that close. On film, you’re distanced from it.” The show’s ability to close that distance earned it accolades from many domestic violence groups. “In Los Angeles, we teamed up with a shelter. The show, and film, has been endorsed by many domestic violence groups. Some even show it to workers who only see the aftermath of such abuse. Leaders of organizations loved it and used it almost as a teaching tool.”

However, some people are affected by the show in other ways. “Children who grew up in homes like this have the hardest time with it,” Shores said. When the show was on in L.A., seats were always reserved for women from a partner shelter. “We always reserved the seats nearest the exit for the women, but, you know, we never had one of them leave. But we did have one or two people storm out, right thought the stage. We always had someone out there to catch them, and it was always an adult child whose parents were those people.”

The Nashville run will be directed by Clay Hillwig, who recently directed KB Productions’ run of Equus. “Del Shores has given us a gift with this script,” Hillwig said. “We have the opportunity to deal head on with such a horrific subject matter as domestic abuse and provide a night of heartfelt entertainment at the same time. As we look into the life of Willadean Winkler, played in our show by Cat Arnold, there are times we will laugh, we will cry and we will cringe.” The cast includes Music City actors Cat Arnold, LaQuita James, Andrew Strong, Beth Henderson, LaToya Gardner and Ryan Huber, with L.T. Kirk as music director.

Shores is visiting Nashville for the Tennessee premiere of Housewife, participating in a meet and greet on opening night, and performing his new comedy act, SINgularly Sordid, on July 5. Though he appeared in Nashville at Play just last year, he promised, “My standup show is all new material. It’s a brand new show, basically covering life after divorce, then some trademark things: fun Tennessee stories people send me that I act out, some ‘P.S. Fuck You’ letters, and I act out some of the anti-gay quotes from Ted Cruz and others. This may be my favorite show!”

Performance dates for Housewife are July 3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th, 10th and 11th.  All shows begin at 7:30 pm except Sunday, July 5th, which begins at 5:00pm. All performances at the Darkhorse Theater, 4610 Charlotte Avenue. Tickets are $15 and available at kb-productions.eventbrite.com.

July 3rd is a special VIP show & reception for $20 evening with a Meet & Greet reception with Del Shores after the performance.

Shores’ SINgularly Sordid will be at the Darkhorse on July 5th at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available at delshores.tix.com.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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