Sordid Lives: Dysfunctional Texas family fun

By Genoa Gibson

UT’s Department of Speech, Theatre and Dance took the stage Oct. 12-14 to put on their fall play, Sordid Lives. The play is about an eccentric family living in Texas, coming together after their matriarch suffers a very strange death when she trips over the wooden legs of her lover, and hits her head on the sink.

The family consists of the mother’s sweet sister who is trying to stop smoking, one liberal redhead daughter, a transsexual son trapped in an insane asylum, one uptight daughter who can’t fathom that her own son is gay and the gay son who has seen 27 therapists. The play’s action revolves around the family and the community dealing with the aftermath of the death.

The play, written by Del Shores, was directed by associate professor of Speech, Theatre and Dance, Robert Gonzalez. When it came time to pick a play to direct Gonzalez had two choices presented to him; a parody play titled Psycho Beach Party or Sordid Lives.

Sordid Lives also fit in their slot for a physical comedy or a comedy of manners, which are plays that focus on the body for a humorous effect and the latter being ones that satirizes and questions societal standards. Every year they try to change things up and keep it fresh. The script is also extremely funny, Gonzalez said Sordid Lives made him laugh out loud more than anything else.

But the one thing that sealed his decision was the amount of women’s parts that are available.

“There are a lot of women in the theatre department and I want to cast them. One of the hardest things about finding plays are finding ones’ that are good enough with women in them,” Gonzalez said.

With only five weeks to rehearse the play to perfection Gonzalez expressed how challenging it was for him, since his preferred directing style is a more leisurely approach with longer rehearsal periods. Most of the actors came up with a lot of things themselves with very minimal input from him. He let them control their own staging and then came in after to tweak things, which allowed him to focus on other aspects of the play that needed more attention, since their time was so limited. One of the highlights of the fall semester slot is that the students can participate in The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Two of the actors in the play get to be nominated for an acting award that will allow them to compete in a nationwide acting contest that happens every year in Washington D.C.

Destiny Greer, junior theatre major and studio art and film production minor, plays Sissy Hickey; the sister of the mother who died.

“This has been one of the best experiences of my acting career,” Greer said. “Bob Gonzalez is absolutely amazing and the entire cast and crew has been phenomenal. We truly feel like one big dysfunctional family.”

The cast and crew put in work for three hours five nights a week, and while not every single actor is there for every rehearsal, Gonzalez is there every day and so is the stage manager. Including the set building, memorizing lines, costume design and perfecting the Texan accent, it was evident that a very considerable amount of hard work and preparation was spent to make the play come together.

Gonzalez and Greer both agreed that they wanted people who came to see the play to just laugh, and see how other people live. “It’s pretty hilarious but also touches base with some pretty common issues in today’s society,” Greer said.

The hilarity came across for the audience, who spent the play enjoying it.

“It was one of the funniest plays I had seen in awhile,” Brianna Young, advertising major, said. “It started off pretty serious and I thought it would stay that way the whole time. But by the end of the play I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

Another student Taylor Willis , senior accounting major, felt that Spencer Hubbard, who played Brother Bear, did an amazing job with the role.

For updates on the department’s upcoming production Pirates of Penzance (Nov. 15 to Nov 18) follow them on Facebook and Twitter @TheatreUTampa.

Genoa Gibson can be reached at

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