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Del Shores Brings One-Man Show to Cincinnati, is Ready to Wave at Pride

Del Shores may be hiring soon for a temporary gig.

The playwright, screenwriter, and actor is a grand marshal for this weekend's Cincinnati Pride parade on Saturday - and this isn't his first rodeo. He knows how grueling that job can be.

Waving at people for miles and miles takes its toll more than any writer's cramp could.

"When I was grand marshal in Atlanta Pride, my arms hurt for two weeks after. It was so amazingly long," Shores told The River City News in a phone interview while his new tour took him to Indianapolis. He returns to Cincinnati for a performance of his new one-man show, and to wave in another parade. "I thought maybe I was going to hire someone to hold it for me!"

On Friday night, Shores brings his new Six Characters In Search of a Play  to Below Zero Lounge in Over-the-Rhine. Fans know the words he's put in other actors' mouths as they perform his acclaimed Sordid Lives or episodes of the American version of Queer as Folk, on which he was a writer and producer - but this time, his words will be performed by him.

"It's different than what I have done before in that it is much more of a play. For the last few shows, I basically designed a stand-up tour and I love that - standing with a mic and talking shit, but I always have a map, and don't really stay on the road," he said. "But this one, I do stay on the road."

Otherwise, it would be hypocritical. As a playwright, he is adamant that actors perform the words as written. Now, on the receiving side of direction, he has to do the same.

Six, Shores said, is inspired by the title, Six Characters in Search of an Author, the classic Italian play.

But the experience reflected in the show is all Shores's own. As a writer, he creates characters, and sometimes they don't fit in a current project. The characters in his one-man show are all ones that he has collected over the years. "Every now and then I say, you get to be in this play and there are six characters who haven't quite made it into my plays or films or TV work, and they are waiting in the wings," he said.

Six characters now have a play to call home, with their words to be said by Shore.

"I've had the best time doing this play. It was the hardest thing for me to memorize because I am a playwright and I'm very strict with my actors when it comes to saying words as written, and my director, Emerson Collins, whom I've directed many times, he was able to make me stick to my own rules."

Cincinnati will mark the 45th show for the 60-year old Shores and his new play. "I got it down now," he said.

In Six Characters In Search Of A Play, riffing on Pirandello's classic title, 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 90 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. The audience will meet Yvonne, the anti-vegetarian Dallas waitress; Sarah, a Trump-hating elderly actress with an inhaler in one hand and a cigarette in the other; Jimmy Ray, the evolving, Magic Mike-loving latent Georgia redneck; Loraine, the once-brilliant drama teacher who has lost her damn mind and is now obsessed with porn; Marsha, the monkey-hating lesbian with COPD; and Aunt Bobby Sue, the racist Republican with a heart of gold.

All seats are $25. The show starts at 8 p.m. Join Del for a meet-and-greet after the show.

Below Zero Lounge is located at 1120 Walnut Street in Cincinnati. 

Audiences are responding positively - and so are critics. "You try to be that artist that says, it doesn't matter, I'm just telling my shit - but we're full of shit - it does matter. Those pool quotes certainly don't hurt when you're selling your show," Shores said. "The audiences have been amazing in every city."

Shores has performed at Below Zero twice before and likes his relationship with owners Nigel Cotteril and J.C. Diaz so much that he made an exception for it as he tours the new show. "I didn't want to do any bars with this play, so I reached out to mostly theaters. But the great thing about Below Zero is, it is kind of like a tiny theater."

Shores - a Texas native - is known for his quirky and authentic southern characters, and the southern quality of Cincinnati is what he likes about his visits to the Queen City. 

"Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and even some of Columbus - they feel like southern states to me, with the feeling of the people, with the warmness and the way they get my humor," he said. "Our families are in sync with each other. People come up to me and say, they know that one, and I just feel like there's a southern sensibility in that way."

With his first hit play coming with Daddy's Dyin': Who's Got the Will in the late 1980s, followed by a 1990 film version, Shores has told stories over the past few decades - a period of time that has seen widespread growth towards equal rights for gay people.

"I believe my work reflects how the culture has changed," Shores said. "In my last film, A Very Sordid Wedding, I returned to the Sordid franchise but I updated the timeline. So much progress has been made and the evolution of these characters - I wanted to celebrate not only what has happened in our gay world, but also with family and friends around us. With Sordid Wedding, I was able to write a movie right after the Supreme Court decision (legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide) and we saw a pushback from the Evangelicals, and that's reflected in the film. Characters take on the church and say, you're not right.

"What I love about my life is how my putting a face on gay, so many families and friends changed their hearts and minds, and I celebrate that."

Shores recently saw the progress celebrated when the cast of Queer as Folk reunited recently. "Everybody came back together and could see the fights have paid off," he said.

His long, successful, and impactful career has led to a life as, what Shores calls, "a minor gay celebrity."

"I talk about it in my show. I do this whole section about being a minor gay celebrity. Some drunk guy came up to me in a restaurant, and he said, my friends over there told me you're a minor gay celebrity. Who the hell are you?"

"I talk about how there are perks - and one of those perks is being a grand marshal," Shores said. Cincinnati Pride will make Shores's tenth time as a grand marshal in a pride parade.

Next up for Shores is more tour dates for Six, and a possible television series deal that he could not talk much about yet. "It's a little early to talk about because it hasn't been set up at a network, but I'm working with very big producers on it and it celebrates Americana and small towns."

He also finished a new play, This Side of Crazy - which focuses on four women in the gospel music business.

"I've been obsessed with gospel music because my dad was a Southern Baptist preacher - and I love the scandal involved and I love the music as well," he said. "I was inspired by real people again, and my mind just started going, and I enjoyed writing this."

On Saturday, his hands take a break from writing.

They'll be doing lots of waving instead.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher