Del Shores is an honorary Austinite. His award-winning play and film, Sordid Lives, which was also a television series, has a cult-like following in Austin and in cities across the country for its sassy, hilarious depiction of a dysfunctional family in Texas. His latest effort, Yellow, is a darker play, showing at Coast Playhouse in Los Angeles, that chronicles a year in the life of a seemingly perfect family and tackles issues of tolerance, religion and secrets. In the midst of enjoying the success of his play, the writer, producer and all-around funnyman chatted with us about his impressive body of work, his feelings about Texas and where he finds his creative inspiration.
Tell me about your connection to Austin.
I did a one-man show in Austin last summer. I have a huge fan base there. Sordid Lives had its first big festival win there, winning Best Feature in 2000 at the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival.
Who have been your mentors, personally and professionally?
My mom was the most inspirational in terms of creativity. Growing up in Texas, I came from this wacky family. My mother taught English, speech and drama. She went back to college when I was in first grade. She had my brother and myself in college productions at Howard Payne University when we were so little. My dad was a Southern Baptist minister and that’s kind of theater, too. She also encouraged me to read–I would read a book a day.
Who has been the most fun to work with?
I’ve been working with Leslie (Jordan) since 1985. I just adore him. He hears my voice and I hear his voice. It’s a perfect marriage, if you will, of actor and writer–he’s just one of my very best friends as well. Working with Rue Mcclanahan was truly one of those things that you just never thought was going to happen: someone you loved and ad- mired and were gaga over. So when she said yes to play Peggy that was huge to me. She became my friend and I miss Rue a lot. I’m so glad I got to work with her.
Well, we love Oilcan Harry’s. They’ve been really good to us. I did standup there after my show last summer. We had a great time and a lot of loyal fans there.
You’ve won many awards. Which was the most meaningful for you and why?
It was winning the 2001 GLAAD Media Award (Out- Standing La Theatre Production) for my play Southern Baptist Sissies. I reached down into the depth of all of the damage that I’ve had in my life and I created what was, for me, my favorite play. It meant so much to me because it was about my journey out of that darkness and self-loathing. That was absolutely the most meaningful.
The good news for Sordid Lives is that I own the webisodes, so I can film a few little fun things for the fans with the cast. I am working with a production company in Atlanta and it looks really good that we’re going to do a film version of The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife with the entire original cast from the play.
How is married life?
It’s amazing. Jason (Dottley) is an amazing person and my kids adore him. It’s all good. We’ve been together for almost eight years.
What do you love the most about Texas?
I just love the sense of humor that people have organically in Texas. My great-grandmother–I once said to her, ‘you’re so funny.’ She responded, ‘I don’t mean to be.’ Talking to one of my relatives recently, I don’t know how we got on the topic of lesbians–and she goes, ‘Well, they are hard workers.’ (laughs) you can’t write that! She’s talking about some woman who she knows who works for UPS. A lot of people who are not from the South say, ‘oh, his characters are over the top.’ People who are from the South say, ‘I have a mother like Latrelle or I have an aunt Sissy.’