Del Shores has written, directed and produced successfully across studio and independent film, network and cable television and regional and national touring theatre.
Shores’ career took off with the play “Daddy’s Dyin’ (Who’s Got The Will?”) in 1987, which ran two years, winning many Los Angeles theatre awards, including LA Weekly’s Best Production and Best Writing. A movie version of Daddy’s Dyin’ was released in 1990 by MGM starring Beau Bridges, Tess Harper, Keith Carradine and Beverly D’Angelo. Shores wrote the screenplay and executive produced the film.
“Sordid Lives,” his fourth play, opened in Los Angeles in 1996 and ran 13 sold-out months. The play went on to win 14 Drama-Logue Theatre Awards, including three for Shores for wring, directing and producing. There have since been over 300 additional stage productions of the play.
In 1999, Shores wrote and directed the film version of “Sordid Lives” starring Beau Bridges, Delta Burke, Olivia Newton-John, and Leslie Jordan along with most of the cast from the play. Opening in only eight theatres across the country, the little film that could took in nearly two million dollars in its limited release. The movie became a cult phenomenon and became the longest running film in the history of Palm Springs with a record ninety-six weeks.
Del will bring his new one-man show “Six Characters In Search Of A Play” to the Rotary Stage in Sonoma, Sunday July 22. Shores is inspired by Pirandello’s classic play to bring you six characters inspired by his real-life encounters that haven’t quite made it into one of Shores’ plays, films or TV shows. The show is directed by Emerson Collins.
Get tickets here: https://tickets.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=79ae9d4e6d8720948502afa1dc005282&vqitq=c3e253b3-bbce-4930-aa4a-a76314f6c99c&vqitp=d3a9f389-9295-4630-9912-60941f99c00a&vqitts=1525383739&vqitc=vendini&vqite=itl&vqitrt=Safetynet&vqith=935717f98892906d362cf67dc1fc1ee4.
Gaysonoma’s Gary Carnivele interviewed Del about his life, work, a wacky, beloved characters.
Gaysonoma: When did you first become interested in theatre and film and when did you decide to pursue a career in the arts?
Del Shores: My mother was a high school drama teacher, so as a child, I grew up in the theatre. It was home. My mother’s passion became mine. I was the ‘star’ in all the school plays. I was also obsessed with television and film as a kid. When I went to Baylor University, I decided to not major in drama, but instead got a degree in journalism and Spanish. But my senior year of college, I visited my friend Beth Blackstock in Malibu. She was in grad school at Pepperdine. Well, that trip changed the game plan. I decided to move to LA after college to pursue acting. I am an actor at heart and the writing and directing came as an extension of that. I wrote my first play “Cheatin’” so I could be in it. My second play came out of “I have another story to tell” but there was no role for me in “Daddy’s Dyin’ (Who’s Got The Will?)” That play was a huge hit in LA, got me an agent, a TV writing deal at Warner Brothers and a movie was made of the play. My path changed. “Six Characters In Search Of A Play” brings me full circle, back on stage — as an actor. This feels right for this time in my life.
GS: Talk about your formal education and how you developed you playwriting skills?
DS: I never studied playwriting formally. Or screenwriting. Or television writing. I learned by reading plays, watching film and television. I’m self-taught. Again, my mother was the big influence, paying my brother and me to read. We’d get $1.00 for every play or book we read. Pretty soon she couldn’t afford my obsession. I was reading a play or book a day. I recently taught playwriting at Northwestern State University. My students were required to read and report on three plays — then write a short play or part of a full-length play. It was amazing how much they learned — and I learned — by simply reading plays. Whenever someone asks me where to study playwriting, I tell them to read a play a day until they feel ready to write. Start with Williams, Albee, O’Neil, Hellman and Miller.
GS: Who inspired you?
DS: My mother Loraine Shores, first and foremost. The list of playwrights I gave in the last answer, especially Tennessee Williams. Preston Jones, a Texas playwright was a huge influence. Other favorite writers: Horton Foote, Beth Henley, August Wilson, Terrance McNally. I’m also inspired by heroes and activists such as Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King, Dan Savage, Barney Frank.
GS: Your career took off with “Daddy’s Dyin’ (Who’s Got the Will?)” in 1987. What was it like to experience such success?
DS: It was a crazy time. One moment I’m this actor, making about 40K a year, mainly with voice-over work, then my play opens to these crazy reviews, the LA Times calls me a new voice in theatre, Warner Brothers signs me to an overall deal, in a bidding war with Sony and 20th Century Fox, and Propaganda Films and MGM made the film version of “Daddy’s Dyin’” — and my income is over ten times what it was the previous year. I was flying high, a bit overwhelmed, but adjusting to a new life as a writer, the new kid in town. It was pretty amazing.
GS: How did it feel when Hollywood came courting?
DS: It was complicated. I loved the opportunities, the money — but I really had to adjust to how Hollywood wants to control your creativity. I was used to being in control of my work in the theatre, then suddenly I was getting “notes” on my work. I wasn’t expecting that, not prepared. Gary David Goldberg (creator of “Family Ties”) was the first person to ever hire me in TV and gave me the best advice, that I still subscribe to. He told me that television was a collaborative medium and for me to always return to the theatre to reclaim my own voice. I’ve added independent films to that advice. He also told me to keep one of my plays on my desk at all times to remind me that I am a playwright. Best advice I ever got.
GS: You wrote the screenplay for the film, which starred Tess Harper, Keith Caradine, and Beverly D’Angelo, as well as executive produced. Talk about the process of turning your award-winning play into a script.
DS: The adaptation of that play came easily for me. I actually wrote the screenplay while the play was running and the screenplay was optioned by Propaganda, then MGM came on board. I had the luxury of having the play on stage, a huge hit. My manager also represented Sissy Spacek, so she invited Sissy and her husband Jack Fisk to the play. Jack wanted to direct the film version, had a deal with Propaganda, so when he expressed interest, I said — “Oh, I already have the screenplay”. It was so fast. He took the movie to them, they said yes. My manager had also invited John Goldwyn (MGM) so she “married” Propaganda and MGM and bam, we had a greenlight. I was suddenly meeting with Tess, Beverly, Keith, Judge and Beau. It was my first film and my only studio film. They shot the film as written, I was on the set while shooting and it was a whole new world for me.
GS: Your fourth play was “Sordid Lives.” How did you come to write a play that featured gay and lesbian characters?
DS: I came out after a nine year marriage and two amazing children. All that Baptist damage! I couldn’t hide this deep secret anymore and with my career just sailing, I was hurting deeply inside, in so much turmoil. Finally, after a lot of therapy, I claimed my true self and “Sordid Lives” was my coming out play. It was the first time I was completely free to write uncensored. I told my story (“Ty” was me, “Latrelle” was my mom) and the rest of the play unfolded from my twisted mind. That play truly was a gift to myself, allowing me to really feel love for myself and acceptance for that part of me I had hated. The laughter, the applause, the tears, the standing ovations each night showed me that I was loved, just as I am, as I was created.
GS: Are there actual folks on whom the characters are based?
DS: Besides “Ty” and “Latrelle”, my real Aunt Sissy was a huge inspiration for me. I talk about that in “Six Characters” and also the huge influence my mother had on the character of “Latrelle”.
GS: How did you come to write and direct the screen version of “Sordid Lives?”
DS: Beau Bridges had a lot to do with that. We had remained friends after “Daddy’s Dyin’” and he brought his entire family, including Lloyd, Jeff, his mom, Wendy, his wife, and some of his kids to see “Sordid Lives.” After the play, he said, “Del, this is a movie. And when you make it, I want to wear that black bra.” The wheels started spinning, I adapted the play easily and my producing partner Sharyn Lane and I called every rich friend we had, asking them to invest. We made that little movie for about 500K. It was another life changer.
GS: Any interesting stories you care to share about working with such a stellar cast that included Delta Burke, Olivia Newton-John and Leslie Jordan?
DS: We truly do not have time, I have so many. That trio is wonderful and I have also been so blessed to work with so many amazing actors, legends. Let’s not forget Rue McClanahan was “Peggy” in the series and Whoopi Goldberg was in “Sordid Wedding.” Leslie, of course, I’ve worked with since 1985. I wrote “Brother Boy” for him. My favorite Leslie Jordan story is the one about closing night of the play “Sordid Lives”, when I asked Rosemary Alexander (“Dr. Eve”) to not wear panties. She complied and when she got to that iconic scene where she she spread her legs and Brother Boy said, “Dr. Eve, you don’t have on any panties!” Well before he got that line completely out, he screamed and was barely able to recover to utter the “enchilada” line. After the show, he said, “Delferd, that’s the meanest thing you’ve ever done to me. I haven’t seen one in YEARS! It looked like an angry animal. I swear to God, it snarled at me.”
GS: Were you prepared for the huge success of the film and its lengthy run in Palm Springs?
DS: Not at all. It was shocking the first time we all went down to celebrate the long run — I think it was the year anniversary. People were dressed like the characters, shouting out the lines, wearing lug nuts and rubber bands, they popped right along with “Sissy” on screen.
GS: Did you approach Logo TV about you producing the prequel episodes on “Sordid Lives: The Series?”
DS: I did. I took it to Dave Mace, who was the executive in charge of programming. He said yes, then after a long process (over 2 years) of getting producers and all the financing, we shot the series.
GS: What was it like imagining the backstories of your beloved characters and fleshing it out in a 12-episode series?
DS: It was amazing returning to the characters. Easy, really to write for them. The creative part was amazing. I could have done that series for many, many years, but unfortunately, a greedy producer decided to not pay us our residuals, lawsuits happened that ultimately killed the series. Here was my lesson — never work with assholes! And please don’t interpret that as a Logo bash. It’s not. They were not the producers, they were the network and supported the series. They ordered a second season that fell apart because of the greed of the producer and his company that owned the show.
GS: Then came: “A Very Sordid Wedding.” Did you feel this was a way to say ‘goodbye’ to the characters you created and tie up loose ends?
DS: Yes, and it was very healing after the horrible demise of the series. I realized I was NOT mad at “Sordid Lives”, I was angry at the producer who stole from us and ultimately destroyed our show. With the help of Emerson Collins, my producing partner, and my delicious cast and crew, we made what I feel is my best film.
GS: Talk about the creation of you one-man show “Six Characters In Search of A Play.”
DS: I was on the road promoting the screenings of “A Very Sordid Wedding” with Emerson Collins and some of the cast. In my hotel rooms, I wrote this play. I was talking to Ann Walker (“LaVonda”) one day, telling her about my Aunt Bobbie Sue and a visit back to Winters, Tx for my Aunt Sissy’s memorial service. She was howling and said, “Oh honey, you have to tell that on stage.” My mind started whirling and the play just poured out of me. The concept — these are six people I have met, who have inspired me, but have not yet made it into one of my plays, films or TV shows.
GS: Did you always know that you would perform the show?
DS: Me as opposed to casting an actor to perform it? Oh yes, it was always intended for me. I’m one of the main characters, so an actor would have to play “Del Shores”/Writer. Frankly, that could happen in the future, but for now, I’m very right for the role and love doing the play.
GS: We’re thrilled you’re bringing the show to Sonoma. Talk about what will make this an amazing evening of theatre.
DS: Well, lots of gays will be there for Out In The Vineyard — so I know the material will work! I’m excited to play that beautiful theatre — The Rotary Stage in Andrews Hall for Sonoma Community Center. With this show, I believe we all need some laughs these days — and there may be a few tears as well.
GS: Will you be able to enjoy some quality time here, before moving on to the next date?
DS: I’m coming in on Friday and leaving on Monday, so yes, I’m there for the weekend! Very excited. I love my job where I get to visit amazing places and events as well.
GS: Are you working on something new?
DS: I am. I have a new play I’m finishing right now called “This Side Of Crazy” and I also have a TV series in development that once again celebrates small town Americana with a whole new slate of characters.
During National Pride Month, it’s important to remember the history of why we celebrate gains for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex (LGBTQI) people. Many LGBTQI older adults grew up during a time when to love someone of the same gender was considered a crime, mental illness or a sin. LGBTQI people could be put in jail, fired from a job or put into a mental institution.
Discrimination also included troublesome experiences with providers of services. For many, it was difficult to find in-home care, join in social activities and even get medical care due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. Those experiences cause many older adults to avoid using services and programs that would improve their quality of life as they age.
Easing Sonoma County older adults’ access to helpful services is the mission of the Adult & Aging Services Coalition: Opening Doors for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Intersex Seniors. Made up of 25 local agencies, service professionals and community members, coalition members act as leaders on LGBTQI aging issues within their own organizations. The group hosts monthly meetings covering specialized topics such as transgender concerns; legal issues; religion and faith communities; mental health; HIV/AIDS and aging. Agency and community leaders discuss successful programs and practices, challenges and plans for next steps. This learning community has built effective program partnerships across agencies and shared best practices to enhance their ability to serve older LGBTQI adults..
Creation of the Coalition follows two years of the Sonoma County Human Services Department Adult & Aging Division work with the Giving Circle of the Community Foundation Sonoma and community partners to build local understanding and support for LGBTQI issues and concerns.
On July 1, a new state law will require programs funded by some state health and aging agencies — including CalFresh and some Meals on Wheels programs — to collect data on the gender identity and sexual orientation of people who use their services, along with other demographic information. Disclosing such information will be voluntary. The anonymous data will be used to help identify gaps in care for aging LGBTI adults in the health and social services system.
Sonoma County organizations involved in the Opening Doors Coalition include:
If you’re like me, the news of the past week about the Trump administration’s policy of separating kids from their parents at the border has you both livid and emotionally drained. What’s worse is that every time you think the story is as bad as it could possibly get, it sinks deeper and deeper. Children changing diapers of even younger children. Border guards taunting – in Spanish – a room full of crying kids, saying that all they need is a conductor for their orchestra. Trump openly using these children as pawns in negotiations with Congressional Democrats over immigration reform and his never-happening border wall. Jeff Sessions saying that what we’re doing isn’t as bad as the Third Reich, since the United States is keeping people out while the Nazis were keeping the Jews in.
At the rate we’re going, just wait a few hours and the story is going to be even more dismal than it was before. It’s almost as if this is Trump’s strategy – to wear us all down to the point that we are completely immobilized.
So don’t let this happen. Work against the feeling of uselessness and futility. Fight back, now more than ever. Here’s five easy ways how:
1. Call your Representative and Senators
It’s basic civics – each and every one of us has one Representative in the House and two Senators. Find their phone numbers easily here. And then get on the phone. If your Representative has spoken out against separating kids, let them know you support them. If your Senators have signed onto the bill that would ban this practice, applaud them.
But if any of the three has not, memorize that phone number and call it over and over – and then over again. Let them know you vote, you have a long memory, and you will never forget where they stand on the issue of whether children should be ripped from their parents arms.
Do this everyday between now and whenever this shameful policy ends. And text all your friends to do the same. If your Representative’s and Senators’ morality won’t make them do the right thing, maybe fear of their job will.
There are certain skills that are desperately needed in border communities. Are you an immigration attorney? Do you know Spanish or another language that can help with refugees? These are probably the most sought-after forms of assistance, and if you have one of those skills, there’s a list of organizations to contact here.
But it doesn’t end there. Maybe you don’t live anywhere near the border and you don’t have these skills, but you can certainly help to make the lives of immigrants in your community better. There are shelters, community centers, and service agencies for immigrants around the country. Contact your local one and see how you can help. Maybe you won’t be focused on the children at the border right now, but you’d be doing your part to make America more hospitable to immigrants, which will ultimately help every immigrant, no matter where they are.
This one is simple. If you have money, there are organizations that need it to help the children at the border. Even if you don’t normally feel like you have enough money to donate to charities on a regular basis, now is the time to dig deep and find what you can. After all, if you’re reading this, you probably have more to give than the families in need at the border have.
There are all sorts of lists already on the internet of places to donate money. Pick an organization – or several – that strike a chord with you and send them what you can, even if it’s just $5 or $10.
There’s been so much to protest since January 20th, 2017, that it may seem that we’re suffering from protest fatigue. But, people coming together and collectively putting their bodies on the line is always a proven way to get attention and bring about change.
There have already been many local protests, and now it’s going national. June 30th is the national day of protest against the separation policy, with the main protest happening in Washington, D.C. from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. When we look back on this moment in history, you don’t want the answer to the question, “Where were you?” to be, “At home, doing nothing.”
Despite the many ongoing efforts to cut it back, we are still a representative democracy, which means that the people who make decisions are ultimately accountable to us. In particular, the Republicans who have been silent about the atrocity happening at our border need to be held accountable. However, that only happens if we vote.
But here’s the part of democracy and voting that too many people don’t fully appreciate – voting happens more than once every four years. In fact, here in Pennsylvania, where I live, everyone should be voting twice a year, every year. We have elections for some combination of local state, and national offices every single November, which means there’s a primary for those offices every single May. Twice a year, every year. That’s the mantra here.
Every state is different though, so our Pennsylvania mantra might not apply where you live. But everyone in this country has elections at least every two years and possibly more. Find out when every single election that you can vote in is, and then vote in every single one – primary and general. If there is an election that you are eligible to vote in but don’t, you’re doing this resistance thing entirely wrong.
Hopefully, there will be a day sometime soon when our immigration policy is not this gut-wrenchingly cruel – but the only way to make sure that happens is to take action. The lives of some of the most helpless children on earth depend on it.
Brooklyn-based Isle of Klezbos approaches tradition with playful irreverence and deepest respect. Now celebrating two decades together, the soulful, fun-loving powerhouse all-gal klezmer sextet has toured from Vancouver to Vienna since 1998.
The band repertoire ranges from rambunctious to entrancing: neo-traditional folk dance, mystical melodies, Yiddish swing & retro tango, late Soviet-era Jewish drinking songs, re-grooved standards, and genre-defying originals.
Broadcast credits include CBS Sunday Morning, The L Word, PBS, as well as over a dozen film soundtracks such as Grace Paley: Collected Shorts and Esther Broner: A Weave of Women.
Tickets: $30 (VIP); $20 (general); $10 (kids 12 and under).
Teaching at Three Local Synagogues about Spirit and Authentic Living. Yiscah Smith was once a Chasidic man, living in Jerusalem with wife and children. But her quest to be her most authentic self led her on a decades-long journey, resulting not only in her transitioning to become the woman she knew she was, but returning into the fold of observant Judaism.
Yiscah now teaches lessons on using Jewish teachings (and religious teachings
generally) not to enforce normative behavior, but as a guide to liberate oneself to live
with utmost spiritual integrity.
Reb Yiscah, who is faculty at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and the Conservative
Seminary in Jerusalem, is visiting Sonoma County for a 3-day residency sponsored by
three local congregations.
On Wednesday, June 13 at 7PM, she presents “Forty Years in the Wilderness:
My Journey to Authentic Living” – in which she shares the joys and struggles of
her own spirituality and gender identity. This talk is at Congregation Ner
Shalom, 85 La Plaza in Cotati. Admission is free.
On Thursday, June 14 at 7PM, she will teach “Jewish Living as the Cultivation
of a Spiritual Practice” – based on the teachings of the Piasetzner Rebbe, also
known as the Rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto, whose teachings were hidden in a
metal cylinder and unearthed only decades after the liquidation of the Warsaw
Ghetto. This teaching is at Congregation Beth Ami, 4676 Mayette in Santa Rosa.
Admission is free.
On Friday, June 15, at 1:30PM, she will offer a daytime teaching called “Go to
Yourself: Moving from One Self to Another Self”. This experiential session will
involve encountering the Divine within and moving from a finite sense of self to
a place that is limitless and beyond ego. The teaching, at B’nai Israel Jewish
Center, 740 Western Avenue in Petaluma, is followed, for those who wish, by a
thematically linked yoga session taught by Helaine Sheias. The talk is free and
the yoga session is sliding scale.
Studying with Yiscah is a moving experience. Ner Shalom’s Reb Irwin Keller, who has
studied with her in the past, says, “You imagine how much heartache her life journey
has involved; and yet the joy and ease that pours through her is real and it is infectious.
Whether she’s talking about a text in particular or the life of the spirit in general, you
walk away uplifted. And inspired too – so many people have had to turn away from
their religious traditions in order to be their true selves!”
Yiscah’s story is indeed unusual. While one reads and hears stories about transgender
(and other LGBTQ+) Orthodox Jews, those stories rarely have a happy ending in which
the individual can express the full breadth of their identity. With Yiscah as an emerging
voice, we may hope to see more happy endings.
Besides teaching, Yiscah hosts a podcast, and is the author of Forty Years in the
Wilderness: My Journey to Authentic Living. Read more about her at yiscahsmith.com.
|Chef and Volunteers Cooking in a New Kitchen!|
Freshly prepared food for our congregate lunch program is now being prepared in a new location! Local nonprofit, Worth Our Weight, is generously renting its kitchen to Food For Thought every Monday. Chef Coby Leibman and our volunteer cooking crew (featured above) couldn’t be happier in this large kitchen with plenty of room to prepare healthy food for our clients.
We are very thankful that Worth Our Weight has allowed us to use their kitchen and encourage you to support them. The Worth Our Weight Cafe serves brunch every Sunday from 8 am – 2 pm. Catering is also available for events and private parties. We hope you will consider them for your dining and catering needs, as they have been so supportive of Food For Thought.
Two Exciting Positions at FFT
1. Event Coordinator will organize our annual Dining Out For Life fundraising event. The Event Coordinator will work with local restaurants, corporate sponsors, and volunteers to make this one-night event a success. This is a part-time (10-20 hours per week) temporary position, June-December 2018.
2. Warehouse/Stocking Clerk is responsible for performing a variety of manual tasks associated with the acquisition, storage, and distribution of food products and maintenance of the facility. This is a part-time (20-25 hours per week) nonexempt position, with a varied weekly schedule that includes evening and weekend hours.
For full job descriptions and information about how to apply to these exciting positions, please visit our website.
It began with a pride flag stolen, and then tossed into the Russian River. Today, the story entered a new phase in Sonoma County Superior Court. It has been symbolic from the start. “Every time he is in court, I will be here,” said Beth Sheets, who joined several other people in watching proceedings.
The flag, symbolizing LGBTQ pride, was stolen on April 26 from the building at 16201 First Street in the unincorporated area of Guerneville in Sonoma County.
The building arranged for a replacement, but the flag was again stolen on May 5. According to Sonoma County’s website, Guerneville became a “welcoming resort area for Bay Area gay men and lesbians” in the 1970’s.
A man named Vincent O’Sullivan, 55, is seen in this undated image.
This marked the first appearance of Vincent Joseph O’Sullivan, Jr. following his arrest last weekend. He pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges Tuesday of stealing a pride flag from the county flagpole in Guerneville, and also to felony charges of a hate crime by threatening to blow up gay people, a grocery store, and sheriff’s substation with a pipe bomb.
“It is a terrorist threat. He did not take action to carry out that act,” said Sonoma County Sherriff’s Department spokesman, Sgt. Spencer Crum.
In open-minded and permissive Guerneville, both alleged crimes resonate disturbingly. Hence, a large group who came to court today. “We’re here to protect ourselves from people who want to blow us up,” said Guerneville resident Jennifer Wentz.
“It is about a community of people who have been discriminated against,” added Beth Streets.
Beth Streets had lobbied with the county to place that pride flag in the town square, beneath the American and California flags. A surveillance video from last week shows two men. One of them covers the camera’s lens, and then the flag disappears. The thieves reportedly left a warning signed in the name of veterans. David Juarez told us today that the notes certainly do not speak for him. “I was leery of coming here. My husband said as a veteran and openly gay person you have to do that.”
So he did, and they did.
They will continue to be on hand as the cases move forward.
You might call it a matter of pride and principle.