The Dark Side of Del Shores

Sordid Lives creator Del Shores delves into the personal drama that inspired Yellow, his first new play in seven years, and shares some golden memories of friend Rue McClanahan.



Premiering his first new play since 2003’s The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife, Del Shores makes a colorful comeback with Yellow, which opens June 11 and continues through July 25 at West Hollywood’s Coast Playhouse. Yellow chronicles a year in the life of a seemingly perfect family and the teenage gay son of a fundamentalist in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It’s certainly not the first time that the award-winning writer, who also worked on Queer as Folk, has created a gay character, but the play is uncharacteristically dark for the man behind Sordid Lives and Southern Baptist Sissies. Both creatively inspired and stifled by his dramatic detour with Sordid Lives: The Series, Logo’s 2008 prequel to his cult classic film, Shores now chooses to focus on the brighter side of his path, which included the chance to work with the late legend Rue McClanahan. How are previews of Yellow going?
Del Shores: Incredible. We’ve had some great houses with lots of wonderful enthusiasm for the play. I’m at that point of exhaustion and about 50 percent relief. The other 50 percent will come after the reviews come out.

What are early audiences responding to the most?
They’re just raving about the cast. I’m so lucky to have made this dramatic departure and be blessed with such great actors. A lot of people are also shocked at a big twist that, while it doesn’t eliminate all comedy in the second act, certainly creates a lot more drama. People didn’t realize it was going to be such a dramatic piece. I had some dramatic stuff in Trailer Trash Housewife, but this gets very heavy.

People are saying that this is your darkest work yet. What does that say about you and your own personal journey?
I started writing Southern Baptist Sissies right after I had written the screenplay for Sordid Lives, so that’s when I started on a darker path in telling the truth about my journey in the church, but there was still a lot of funny. Honestly, I had a dark period of my life between Trailer Trash and Yellow, and this play reflects that. I don’t want to go into detail because I’m trying very desperately to put all that behind me, even though it’s still ongoing, but I feel like the themes of betrayal and cowardice are huge. Subconsciously, I think that is why I chose this story — or why it chose me. This is the story I was supposed to tell.

I can only assume that some of that darkness was due to the drama surrounding Logo’s cancellation of Sordid Lives after a successful first season. You went into great detail about the complicated situation in a letter you posted on your Facebook page, which included the cast not getting paid their residuals. You also mentioned that your home was in foreclosure. Not to dwell on the past, but how are you today? Has everything been resolved?
Back on track, but no, it has not been resolved. Financially, yes, I did lose the home, but those years of struggle made me appreciate what I had. Still to this day, not one single actor has been paid his residuals — which is one of the last conversations I had with Rue — but I am glad they ran that Sordid Lives marathon as a tribute to Rue.

Tags: Theater