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Shores, Del (b. 1957)  
 
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Del Shores has used playwriting as a means to explore the intersection of Southern culture and glbtq culture with both empathy and humor. As a screenwriter, he has worked on numerous television series and also adapted several of his plays as feature films. In addition, he has been active in championing equal rights, particularly standing against California Proposition 8, which repealed marriage equality in 2008.

Delford Lynn Shores comes from a devout Southern Baptist family. His father, William Shores, was a minister in the church, as is his brother. Shores was born December 3, 1957 in Winters, Texas, the town that would be the model for the setting of most of his plays.

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As a young man, his goal was to become an actor, and so he moved to Los Angeles in 1980. True to his roots, he quickly became a member and a Sunday school teacher at the First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills, a somewhat misnamed house of worship that is just across the city line in the gay enclave of West Hollywood.

The minister at First Baptist eventually questioned him about his sexual orientation, but Shores, who had felt homosexual yearnings but had been taught that being gay was a choice--and a wrong one--assured him that, as he truly believed at the time, he was straight.

Shores found some work as an actor but also began exploring writing. His first play, Cheatin', is a comedic—and very heterosexual—romp set in the fictional town of Lowake, Texas.

When Cheatin' had its first production in North Hollywood in 1984, among the actors was Newell Alexander. Shores quickly formed a bond with Alexander, his wife, Rosemary, and their daughter, Kelley, because the family came from the same Texas Southern Baptist tradition as he.

Kelley Alexander was the stage manager for the initial production of Cheatin', but neither she nor her parents had a role in the subsequent run of the play in Kansas City, in which Shores appeared on stage; nevertheless, she eventually got on a plane for Missouri. She and Shores, who had previously contemplated marriage, made a quick decision to proceed with the nuptials and were married one week later with the Reverend William Shores officiating.

Openly gay actor Leslie Jordan, then a member of the cast of Cheatin' and who would appear in productions of several of Shores' other works, stated that he served as "best man, bridesmaid, ring bearer and flower girl" at the ceremony, a description clearly to be taken with a grain of salt, although it does suggest that this marriage was not getting off to a typical Southern Baptist start.

The couple settled into a Southern California-Southern Baptist lifestyle, both of them teaching Sunday school while they pursued their careers in the entertainment industry. They eventually had two daughters.

Cheatin' had been well received, but Shores' Daddy's Dyin' . . . Who's Got the Will?, first performed in 1987, brought him even greater success and accolades, including awards from LA Weekly for Best Writing and Best Production. Shores wrote the screenplay and served as executive producer for the film adaptation (1990, directed by Jack Fisk).

In his second play—set, like his first, in Lowake—Shores created a quirky family gathered to attend the final days of the dying—and fairly wealthy—patriarch and also to find his will, the terms of which are unknown. Daddy cannot help in the latter quest because he does not remember what he did with the document.

Karen Knutson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette praised Shores for his story-telling and his vivid characters, writing, "Daddy shows a family at its worst with jealousies, childhood grudges never forgotten, greed, backbiting, and arguments over nothing transforming otherwise unexceptional people into extraordinary characters. But beneath the tempestuous carryings-on there's a solid core of love in the Turnover family, and that's what makes this film so endearingly believable. . . . The characters teeter on the edge of being caricatures but never fall into the abyss, remaining fresh and unpredictable. And Shores' screenplay wisely leaves several matters unresolved; the ending, while not quite happy, is hopeful."

Shores completed his Lowake trilogy with Daughters of the Lone Star State in 1992. The play, which features an all-woman cast, centers on the members of a ladies' social club who must confront their own long-held beliefs about societal norms when African-American women--different from the traditional core group--turn up at a recruitment meeting.

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Del Shores in 2007. Photograph by Rosemary Alexander.
  
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