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It’s been over three years since the last time acclaimed writer/director/producer Del Shores made the trip to Nashville and he readily admits that he’s way past due for a visit.
The last time Shores was here he brought along Leslie Jordan and the couple was greeted by an endless line of fans all wanting to meet and greet the dynamic duo of "Sordid Lives." This time around, Shores doesn’t just have Jordan in tow—he’s got the entire casts of two of his best stage works “Sordid Lives” and “Southern Baptist Sissies” including the incomparable Delta Burke, Dale Dickey, Levi Kreis and many others.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Shores during a recent "O&AN" interview. “Going to Nashville for Pride was when I really realized for the first time what the movie was doing. Nashville never even screened ‘Sordid Lives,’ so with the DVD release it has become such an incredible cult crazy thing that I feel really blessed and humbled wondering how in the world this thing has been able to do this, so I’ll just take it!”
An amazing ride, indeed! Shores has not only written and produced episodes of “Queer as Folk” not to mention the success of “Sordid Lives” as a cult movie hit, but he has gone on to a successful run of “A Season of Shores” in Los Angeles that is now touring the United States including “Daddy’s Dying, Whose Got The Will?”, “Sordid Lives” and “Southern Baptist Sissies”. The latter two will be staged in Nashville at the beginning of November.
“We’ve never toured either show before,” Shores admitted, “It was Jason, my husband and producing partner’s idea. He’s a huge Madonna fan and he was reading about the hundreds of millions that she was gonna make on tour so he suddenly had the bright idea that maybe we should go on tour.”
Starting out in Palm Springs, the tour then went to San Diego and has gone on to do very well in every city thus far with the only exception being St. Louis who had mediocre ticket sales. The tour topped out in Dallas with “Southern Baptist Sissies” playing to 4,000 people in one night and “Sordid Lives” playing to 3,000.
“I want to see Nashville top Dallas,” Shores said, “We’re really looking forward to being there. We feel the love already. We’ve been getting lots and lots of e-mails and the tickets are clocking every day.”
While most Tennesseans are already familiar at least with the screen version of “Sordid Lives”, which is currently in development with Logo as a new original television series, many may not be familiar with the more serious, but still funny “Southern Baptist Sissies” which follows the lives of three southern church boys trying to reconcile their beliefs with their sexuality. People of all spiritual affiliations and sexual orientations will be moved to laughter and then to tears through the course of this truly life changing script.
“I’ve just been so passionate about this story,” Shores explained. “I could put all of my letters that I have ever had about any of my work in one stack and all of the letters from Sissies in another and the Sissies stack would be easily twice as large. It has had an amazing emotional impact on a lot of people who were raised in the church gay or straight that ever felt different for who they were.”
Accompanying Shores on the tour are a number of the stellar performers who have revolved around him since early in his career. When asked how he manages to attract all of this stellar talent to his work seemingly without really trying hard he jokes that he gloms onto them and finds out as much as he can about them so that they are forced to work for him.
“I’ve got so much on Leslie Jordan he’ll have to work for me until he’s ninety,” Shores laughed. “We all know that’s not true though because Leslie tells anyone who will listen all of his dirt.”
In all seriousness, Shores points to a deep universality that seems to attract others to him. He truly loves and cares for each person with whom he works and they seem to be more of a family than an ensemble—a characteristic than seems to gel their work so solidly that each player is part of a greater organic whole supporting each other’s strong performances with their own bringing about a presentation of pure talent and extraordinary ability.
“They are all very real people,” said Shores, “They all are Southerners as well. We’re all from the same dirt, so to speak, and we find each other especially in a town like LA.”
Along with his traditional cast of players, another notable addition to the players is Jason Dottley, Shores’ husband and producing partner. Shores admits they were well aware of the challenges they would face with Jason joining the cast portraying Ty in "Sordid Lives" since the beginning of the revival last year.
“Jason stepped into a very seasoned cast when he entered the role of Ty,” said Shores, “These guys had been working together since 1996, so there was a lot of intimidation that he was feeling. It really got to the point where I had to tell him that he simply had to get over this and just do his own work as best as he was able. There was an enormous amount of pressure for us both that his performance had to be good because when you cast your husband you don’t want people to say things.”
The duo needn’t have been anxious about the performance as Dottley walked away with rave reviews for his part.
Among the many people who have been touched by Del Shores’ work is legendary gospel singer Dottie Rambo whom Shores has invited to attend the showing of “Sordid Lives” in Nashville after she wrote the director via MySpace telling him how much his work meant to her and how humor heals all wounds.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Shores exclaimed, “I grew up with her music. I still have albums here and I’ve listened to her for years. Her manager sent me a care package with about ten Dottie Rambo CD’s and a Dottie Rambo Doll. I have a Jesus Doll and a Tammy Wynette Doll so I put Dottie right in the middle. She definitely falls somewhere between Jesus and Tammy Wynette in my book.”
Del Shores’ “The Official Tour” information:
Del Shores’ “Southern Baptist Sissies” starting Delta Burke and Leslie Jordan with Newell Alexander and Dale Dickey – Nov. 10 & 11 at 8:00 p.m. at TPAC’s Polk Theatre, 615-255-ARTS (2787)
Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives” starring from the film Leslie Jordan (Brother Boy), Newell Alexander (Wardell), Rosemary Alexander (Dr. Eve), Sarah Hunley (Juanita) and Ann Walker (Lavonda) with Patrika Darbo (Days of Our Lives) and Dale Dickey (My Name is Earl) – Nov. 12 at 3:00 & 8:00 p.m. at TPAC’s Polk Theatre, 615-255-ARTS (2787)
Tickets and Info at http://www.theofficialtour.com/