A Del in concert!

(And he won’t cancel!) Shores returns to his native Texas bruised but busy

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NATIVE SHORES | Winters provided the backdrop for Del Shores’ comedy, but his Hollywood connections include directing Oscar hopeful Octavia Spencer in her next film role. (Photo courtesy Alan Mercer)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Already, 2012 looks to be a busy year for Del Shores. That wasn’t among his New Year’s resolutions, but it has ended up being a blessing for him right now. Having something to do distracts him from those empty moments. After separating less than two months ago from his partner of almost 10 years, singer/actor Jason Dottley, spending quiet times alone was the last thing Shores wanted.

“With something this tragic, I have to stay busy,” he says. “This is a huge tragedy in my life. The depression comes in so I’m taking care of myself by writing or preparing other works. Just keeping occupied is so important. I couldn’t survive otherwise.”

As irony would have it, 2012 could end up being Shores’ biggest year yet. The Winters, Texas, native kicks it off in the Rose Room with a standup performance Jan. 27. For this show, he specifically returned to Dallas to film his performance for an upcoming DVD release. And for good reason: He feels the love here.

“I’d rather just go to Dallas,” he says. “I have the hugest fan base there and I should go back to the city that loves me the most to film the show. I love it so much.”

Just a year ago, Shores started a new phase of his career by adding “standup comedian” to his resume with a performance of his new act, Sordid Confessions, at the Rose Room. In fact, he’s less a comic than whip-smart storyteller, but he acknowledges that audiences who saw him last year should expect new stuff this time.

Does that mean he’s adding some of his recent personal drama to the bit? Not just yet.

“I haven’t yet put anything about it in my show,” he admits. “I can’t pretend that the elephant isn’t in the room, but I don’t plan to disrespect what we had … not yet at least!”

The closest he plans to get right now is reciting some letters of support he received after he announced his divorce publicly last November.

They were genuinely heartfelt, but hilarious enough to add to the show.

Shores is also writing the screen adaptation of his play Yellow, and is completing a new play about four women called This Side of Crazy. He’s also collaborating with his Sordid Lives star (and long-standing best friend) Leslie Jordan on the mockumentary The Happy Hullisters, about a gospel family hanging onto their last shred of fame. The plan is to begin shooting it in Dallas starting in June; Tony Award-winner Levi Kreiss and comedian Caroline Rhea (who MC’d this year’s Dallas Black Tie Dinner) attached to the project.

“I’m getting my acting company back together for this. And I’ll be in the Hullisters!” Shores beams. “I am embracing the actor in me. I’m still in negotiations to do one more Sordid Lives film that would be a sequel to the movie, but a prequel to the series. And I’m hoping to open [the play] Yellow in Dallas as well. Maybe I’ll be busy for the next two years!”

Shores is also in post-production of his play-turned-movie The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife starring newly-minted Golden Globe winner and likely Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer. Spencer is reprising her role she originated onstage for the play as LaSonia (pronounced “lasagna”) Robinson. Shores admits that if she wins an Oscar it could help his movie, but he was already suitably moved by her Globes win.

“This couldn’t have happened to a better person,” he says. “When she won, my daughter and I were sobbing like Mexican women at a funeral.”
When Shores posted a note on his Facebook page last November (it began, “It saddens me to inform you that Jason Dottley and I are divorcing”), the obvious question among his friends was, “What happened?” But even Shores doesn’t quite seem sure. Soon after his announcement, Shores received notes of support, but also some not so friendly. That added to the shock of his marriage ending. (Dottley was contacted for this piece but declined to comment.)

“We were this couple held up to the light as an example of gay marriage in a working relationship,” he says. “I had no idea this was coming.

My marriage ended, just like straight people. I had to start a process of healing.”

But were there no signs, no inkling of what was to happen? Shores searches for the words, but stammers as he decides whether to answer and what to say. And then finally:

“Let me put it this way,” he begins, “I’ve been working in the entertainment business for a really long time, I get a lot of actor-auditions. For some, I come up with reasons I don’t cast certain ones, but the bottom line is, ‘I don’t want you to play this role.’ And so no matter what was said or the reasons behind it, the bottom line was Jason said, ‘I don’t want to be married to you anymore.’ And there was no negotiation on any level.”

For a moment, he pauses. That inevitable lump jumps into his throat and one of Texas’ funniest funnymen all of a sudden isn’t laughing.

“There is never a great day,” he admits, choking up. “There are partial good days but good days … not yet. It happens.”

Creative types have the luxury of turning pain into their art and it’s easy to imagine Del Shores turning this pain into a comic masterpiece. He insists he’ll heal and move on. Eventually. Born gay into a Southern Baptist family in Texas, life hasn’t always been the easiest. And at the very least, he may take the advice of one fan, a straight woman, who wrote him.

“She told me there was one thing good about a breakup,” he says, “New dick!”
Badum-bum.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Flying solo

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STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Hilarious actress-playwright Lauren Weedman brings her one-woman show to Out of the Loop

……………………

OUT OF THE LOOP

NO…YOU SHUT UP
at Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Circle.
Friday–Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
WaterTowerTheatre.org

……………………

Get this straight: Lauren Weedman is not a standup comedian; she’s an actress who just happens to be insanely funny. There’s a big difference. Even as a straight woman and new mother, the Los Angelena often portrays lesbians in plays she writes. It’s all in a day’s work for a woman making a career channeling multiple characters in a single show with a precision and nuance that’s a joy to behold. This weekend, local audiences have an opportunity to witness her in action in her newest play, No… You Shut Up, part of the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival.

Weedman officially got her big break as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a regular contributor on an NPR radio show, but her career began long before that.
“I started doing on-camera professional stuff when I was living in Seattle around 1995 when I was on a local TV show called Almost Live,” she says. ”But if you call Indianapolis community theater ‘the entertainment industry’ — and I don’t know if you should — it’s since third grade. I’m show-folk. Or circus-folk. Or a dirty artist-hippy — whatever you want to call it.”

The Daily Show, she admits, was an incredible coup, “even though nobody ever remembers me. And I wasn’t on that much during the year I worked there. And I was fired. Otherwise, wow! What a job.”

Weedman spent five years in Amsterdam studying, writing and performing. Before that trip, she thought she was the shocking one among her friends; but once there, she turned into a Puritan, “mostly about the overall passion for nudity all the Dutch people seemed to have,” she says. “I mean, if I was a seven-foot-tall skinny Dutch lady with uncomplicated nipples, I’d be naked all the time, too. But you just could not keep clothes on those people.”

Her varied life experiences show up in some form or fashion in many of her shows. No… You Shut Up comes to Addison via, of all places, Boise, Idaho, where a theater commissioned a play focusing on motherhood — even two-mommie households.

“Well, it’s a play. That starts to get annoying to hear, at least that’s what my friends always say because I’m always saying it whenever someone refers to it as ‘my act.’ As in ‘Lauren, you should meet my sister. You’d love her and you’d want to put her in your act,’” Weedman says. “I’ve done standup, but it’s not what solo theater is to me. The last two shows I’ve been focused on trying to make a narrative — plot-driven, character-driven, semi-autobiographical, fast-paced dark comedies.”

The rapid-fire switching of characters takes a lot of skill. And Red Bull.

“It’s like a dance, so I don’t have to think about it, or grab a hat and spend 14 minutes changing costumes to become another character. I get bored easily — I like to keep it moving.”

As a strong, funny woman, she naturally attracts her share of gay admirers.

“I think that my solo shows have continued to evolve and get better and better instead of sliding into delusion. All thanks to my very bossy, judgy gay friends, who come and see all my shows and let me know everything that they think. I’m a guest on a Sirius Radio show on Out Q with Frank DeCaro and Doria Biddle and they always make me feel like I’m this gigantic star who is just so underappreciated. So I love those gays. I always say the gays keep me on top because they yell at me and they monitor my weight. So they are like family. They are my family.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas