Sordid Lives creator Del Shores returns to Nashville on May 25–26, 2018 for the Tennessee premiere of his new one-man show, Six Characters in Search of a Play, which has been touring the country to rave reviews.
In this show, directed by Emerson, Shores brings to life six one-of-a-kind characters he has met in real life that haven’t quite made it into one of his plays, films or TV shows. In 85 minutes, the audience will hear the truth behind how he collected these eccentrics and their stories as he portrays his hilarious, off-the-rails encounters with them.
In advance of his Nashville engagement, Shores sat down to discuss the show with managing print editor James Grady.
James Grady (JG): So, how would you describe this show to someone who had no idea what it was about?
Del Shores (DS): These are characters I've met that, who I haven't quite placed yet, in my plays and TV shows, or films yet, so …
JG: How did you develop the concept for that?
DS: Well, we were still filming Sordid Wedding, and I was having dinner with all the actors at the Warwick Hotel, and Sarah Hunley, who played Juanita, called. She was slightly intoxicated, and very upset over something that Donald Trump had said. She was just in a crazy, rabid state… I mean, this was way before he won the primary, and she just knew. She kept calling, and she said, "He's gonna win, because there's just enough assholes to vote him in…"
And so, anyway, I was just telling everyone all these stories, and about these random conversations with Sarah. They said, "You know, you've got to put her—the real Sarah, Juanita—in something, some day."
I thought, "Man, that would be a really interesting character"—a diehard liberal from Harriman, Tennessee, who grew up with all conservatives, but through her own intelligence, and evolution, really changed that pattern… So, I just started, and then, just continuing my relationship with her, until she passed away. That was sort of the first time I thought about … doing a new kind of show, more in line with the first show that I did, which was My Sordid Life, more theater than standup.
Touring with Sordid Wedding was when I really, I started … So I wrote part of this in Nashville. I was just in my hotel room, all across the country, writing this play, and making Ann Walker and Emerson listen to me!
JG: So, do you play the characters, or is it more storytelling?
DS: I talk about them, and then, I go into them. And I, literally, I perform the characters, the conversations with myself, with other people, and then there's one that has become the most popular one, where it's just a straight monologue, where this character, Jimmy Del Watkins… he's the only male, actually, of the six.
That's the way it is. I mean, it's very simply staged. I mean, with what I need onstage. I need three chairs and a desk. That's all I have, so I can travel anywhere. The way Emerson Collins directed it, and with my own skills as a director, I can alter for whatever stage I'm on. It doesn't vary that much…
JG: So, if you had to describe the objectives in a few words, if I asked you, "What are they about?", what would you say?
DS: Well, I guess the underlying theme is that there's sometimes those people, those characters, those relatives that we don't write about, and we don't feature. They're not the picture. They're just in the background, the chatter, and I've always, as you know, I mean, you know my work… I've always been attracted to those people that are sort of forgotten, sometimes, the waitresses, the small town racist Republican, who is actually is a good human being on some level, but has just been influenced by religion or society, and intelligence.
That waitress that's in Biloxi, at the Waffle House. Or there's one waitress, I'm always attracted to waitresses, because they're willing to talk … There's one character who is a vegetarian-hating waitress who just doesn't give a fuck anymore. You know, one of those that we all just love…
And then, the big surprise, I think, for everybody, is … I've written about my mother many times. Because she was Latrelle, in Sordid Lives… But, the last two years of my mother's life, she lost her mind, and she was in a mental ward. And so, I talk about the last time that I saw her, and the conversations that we had.
It's truly the hardest, it's hard for me to talk about it right now. It's just so, it was just so shameful, because my mother was an opiate addict, and she had rheumatoid arthritis, and her excuse for taking drugs, like with many of our Southern women and men, was "It's legal, it's medication, it's …"
So she really fried her brain, and my mother was this brilliant, brilliant influence in my life… I mean, right now, I've got a stack of plays here, and I've been, just teaching playwriting, and I just go, "Oh, my God, my mother introduced me to every one of these plays." When I was a kid, she said, "Here, go read. This is one of the greatest plays in the world. Go read Death of A Salesman." You know, when you're in seventh grade!
So, to talk about her, and to share that sort of personal, non-comedic … part of the show, it's the center. It's right in the center of the show, and of course, there's funny stuff, because my mother was hysterical in her insanity. I mean, her delusions were ridiculous and hysterical. I say they're tragically funny.
People are really just not… They're just going, "Oh, my God. I was not expecting that." And I always love that. I kind of love when you surprise an audience… I'm not always just the funny guy, so …
JG: When it comes to the Nashville show, is there anything special you want to add for our readers?
DS: I love going back there. I feel like there are three cities that, when I land, I go, "This could be home." I have so many friends in Nashville. I'm so connected to country music in my work, and it's just a great fanbase, I mean, as you know.
I always say, "When you hit a Southern stage, you never have to explain why you look under a pie plate at a funeral." Right? You go to the Northern states, they go, "Why'd she do that?" You know?
I did also want to add one thing—I'm just thrilled to come back to theaters that had done my work, and that's one of the reasons I've teamed with L.T. Kirk and KB Productions, and of course the Darkhorse, because they've had my plays onstage. It's just nice to be able to hit those stages that have said your words.
KB Productions and Darkhorse Theater will present the play in Nashville for two nights only: May 25 & 26, 2018 at 7 p.m. To purchase your tickets for Del Shores’ Six Characters in Search of a Play, visit DelShores.com/dates or kbpresentsdelshores.brownpapertickets.com.