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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Groovy Guy of the Month: Del Shores



It's been four years since I last interviewed this month's Groovy Guy, writer/director/producer/actor/stand-up comedian Del Shores, who gave us the hilarious movie, Sordid Lives (based on his play), and its TV series prequel. This "black comedy about white trash" is just one of those laugh-out-loud feel-good films that I - and many other gay men - adore.

Del's other plays/screenplays include Daddy's Dyin' (Who's Got the Will?), Yellow, and The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife (which became the 2012 film, Blues for Willadean). His latest movie is Southern Baptist Sissies, an adaptation of his award-winning play about four Texas gay boys who grow up as born-again Christians and the unique path each takes in coming to terms with their sexuality and the strict tenants of the church. The film features an impressive cast, including Willam Belli (RuPaul’s Drag Race), Leslie Jordan (Sordid Lives, Will & Grace), Bobbie Eakes (All My Children) and Ann Walker (Sordid Lives) - and it will be shown next Saturday (November 9) at Reeling31: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival (click here for tickets).

I am delighted to have the fabulous Mr. Shores here on the Dish again to discuss his new film and answer a few pop culture questions.

What inspired you to write Southern Baptist Sissies?
Being raised in the church and being gay. My Dad was a Southern Baptist preacher. I was taught to hate the gay part of myself. I didn't want to be gay, knowing I would burn in hell. Then I dealt with these false teachings and with therapy and the support of friends, came out and learned to love ALL of myself. Sordid Lives was a result of that life journey. Then Matthew Shepard was murdered and like so many, it rocked my world. Around that time, I was reading an article in Newsweek about the killers and there was a picture of one of their living rooms with a picture of Jesus Christ on the wall. My mind started racing, wondering… were these boys, these children, taught to hate gays in church pews? Was their response - the result of those teachings - ultimately this heinous murder of this beautiful boy? Could they have possibly justified their act in the name of the Lord? I thought I had dealt with all this shit, but rage took over and my voice became the voice of "Mark", my storyteller in Sissies. The play poured out of me, out of anger and out of the quest to redefine my faith, to find a new God, a new spirituality which turned into a message of love, acceptance and understanding for everybody.

What made you decide to make a movie of the play? And to have it be a filmed live performance with an audience?
I tried for years to get the movie made. It was an important story for me, one that needed a broader audience. It was almost a surreal calling that I couldn't let go of, especially given the letters, messages that I received from those affected in such a positive way by the play. But raising the money for the film of Sissies just seemed impossible. So, with Emerson Collins and Louise Beard, we formed a company to do low-budget films told in unconventional ways. Our first venture had to be Sissies. I decided to take a risk and film the play. Celebrate two of the mediums I have had success in - film and theatre. We decided to film it with an audience, then do coverage, close-ups, as a film and edit it to feel like one night at the theatre. The film audience would become the theatre audience in a way. Emerson thought with my fan base and the passion people felt for this story, given the hatred that was still being spewed in the name of God, that we could crowdfund. And it all came together. We raised the funds to shoot the film on indiegogo. It took a passionate village - and it works. We have now won seven audience awards and ten awards at festivals. We have always been one of the popular tickets because it seems that people need and want this film. And, of course, it helps that I have such a kick-ass cast.




Did you always want to be a writer/filmmaker?
No, I wanted to be an actor. But I was always a storyteller. My first play came as an extension of my acting. I was in it. Then my writing career took off with my second play, Daddy's Dyin' (Who's Got the Will?), and directing came with Sordid Lives. I have directed everything I've written since 1996. Everything I do, I do from an actor's POV. I love that I have now returned to acting and performing in three stand-up tours.

Can you recall the very first film you ever saw?
I can remember films that resonated with me as a child - Mary Poppins, Oklahoma, Carousel. My mom was the high school drama teacher and introduced me to a lot of musicals. As a teen, Valley of the Dolls, Cabaret, Lenny (my mom called both Cabaret and Lenny "trash" so, of course, I loved them!), The Graduate, The Way We Were. My favorite dramas are Terms of Endearment, Ordinary People, The Trip to Bountiful, Places in the Heart, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Brokeback Mountain. My favorite comedy is Tootsie, hands down. Favorite recent films are Bridesmaids and The Perks of Being a Wallflower - and my favorite gay festival film this year is Bridegroom - it is just staggering!

How did you become involved as an actor in Clay Luther's new independent drama, Cry? And what is the film about?
I was teaching acting workshops in Dallas at casting director Toni Cobb Brock's studio. She came in one day and asked if I ever wanted to act again. I said, "Nobody ever asks." She said, "Well, I'm asking." She gave me the script for Cry and told me the budget. I told her it would have to be a great script for me to consider working on a film with that small of a budget. I mean, I do low-budget, but until Sissies, I had never shot a film that low. The script was beautiful about a boy coming of age, struggling with so much, including sexuality and being bullied. It was beautifully juxtaposed with the story of the neighbor across the street who was coming to the end of his life after losing his wife. The story is really about the old man (Bill Flynn) and the young boy (Skyy Moore) and their friendship. I was to play his gay uncle who was raising the boy after my sister's death. I knew Bill Flynn's work as an actor and consider him one of Dallas' best - and Skyy is an amazing young up-and-coming star. Clay Luther offered me the role, but I insisted on auditioning as I wanted to make sure I was being cast for my acting, not just my name. The audition earned me the role, and I'm very proud of the film. Bill and Skyy and all the cast are just beyond divine. Clay directed a strong first film with a beautiful story and you know, I don't hate my own performance.



If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self a wise piece of advice, what would it be?
I tell so many of my fans, especially young fans - Question the Creation (you) and you question the Creator (God). You are perfect, Delferd Lynn Shores, just as you were created. Be you! All of you!

Having read on Facebook that "The Way of Love" is your favorite Cher song, what is your second favorite?
"Believe"! When I came out (so late), it was the gay anthem. I love it almost as much as "The Way of Love". And you know what, I do believe in life after love.

And since we're on the subject, who are your Top 5 female performers?
Olivia Newton-John, Tammy Wynette, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. And please let me have Kelly Clarkson - whose angry music got me through my divorce - and P!nk who makes me think, feel and rock out! Oh and my friend Debby Holiday! Okay, that's eight. And Dolly and Sandi Patty! That's ten! Shit! I love female singers. I can't play by the rules, Marc, you know that.

Not counting Sordid Lives: The Series, what are your five favorite TV shows of all time?
All in the Family, The Carol Burnett Show, Mary Tyler Moore, Queer as Folk (and yes, I did work on it, but I was a fan first) and Cheers.

If you were asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive, whom would you select?
Hugh Jackman.





What's next for Del Shores? Any Sordid Lives sequels?
Yes! They are next! I have the rights back. Finally. My God, I've been talking about these forever, haven't I? But now they are really on the board. I just need to find the funding to shoot them, but I feel the franchise and cult status will help and prove a great investment. Rich fans? Call me! I'm writing Merry Sordid Christmas and A Very Sordid Wedding. I want to gather the cast, advance the timeline to current time, film them together and call it a day with the Sordid franchise. Then on to a documentary, The Happy Holloways, about a gospel family on its last toenail of fame. Along the way, I also have a new play called The Side of Crazy (no, not my life story) and I'm just starting to perform my latest stand-up show, Del Shores: My Sordid Best - I'll be in St. Louis on November 17 [click here for tickets]. If you follow me on Facebook, you will know everything I'm doing and way too much about me.

Marc, thanks for having me back. I love Deep Dish. You always ask the most fun questions to answer. I'd like to say I'm ecstatic to return to Chicago with Sissies. Thank you, Richard Knight and Reeling Film Festival, for making this happen. Sissies has a history in the city - Bailiwick was the first production of the play outside of L.A. Emerson Collins (the lead) will be with me there as well as my buddy, Chicago resident Levi Kreis (a Tony winner for Million Dollar Quartet who will star in The Happy Holloways), who performs the opening and closing songs of Southern Baptist Sissies. We screen at 12 pm on Saturday, November 9, and for all screenings, "Like" our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SouthernBaptistSissies.

Thank you, Del, for being such a groovy guy!

To learn more about Del's movies, plays and other sordid stuff, visit www.shopdelshores.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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