Self-portrait.

If anybody apart from my friends, family, and students knows who I am, it's because of my work as a writer for stage, screen, and radio. But apart from that, who am I?

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Karen and me

The best part of being me is that I get to be the husband of Dr. Karen Dill-Shackleford. The names get a little confusing: Karen has done me the honor of taking my last name, but is known by her earlier married name in her work as a well-known media psychologist.

BACK TO SCHOOL

I have the honor and pleasure of teaching at my alma mater, the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Theatre Department, where I teach Playwriting, Screenwriting, and Script Analysis. (I also write the scripts for the Department's popular "Bookends" series, but that's a topic for a different page.)

One of my favorite aspects of my life at UAB began in 2003, when I was encouraged by our Chair at the time to instigate a Festival of Ten-Minute Plays featuring new works by student playwrights. We've produced a new Festival every year since then, usually playing to standing-room-only houses. It is a thrilling high-wire act every year, putting these untested shows out before a live audience!

THROUGH SPACE AND TIME

Me with some of my lifelong friendsI'm also a huge sci-fi geek, with a special love for the original STAR TREK series -- and for DOCTOR WHO. My favorite science fiction authors are the ones usually cited as "essential" -- H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur C. Clarke, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury -- and the insanely brilliant Isaac Asimov. One of my most cherished possessions is a piece of "fan mail" written to me by Dr. Asimov after he read Holmes & Watson -- see it here!

I have a special interest -- okay, a fixation -- on H.G. Wells' WAR OF THE WORLDS, in all its incarnations. Why I chose this, of all science fiction stories, to "imprint upon" is beyond my ability to explain. But there it is.

Doctor Who: Podshock and DISCUSSING WHO?One upshot of my decades of devoted fandom is that nowadays I get to be a co-host on a couple of podcasts: the near-legendary Doctor Who: Podshock and the new-and-exciting Discussing Who? I'm forever grateful to Louis Trapani and Kyle Jones for the opportunity to spout opinions about geeky media!

GOLDEN AGE OF RADIO

Fibber McGee and MollyI am also a devoted student and fan of the drama and comedy from radio's Golden Age (roughly 1930-1950)-- my special favorite show being Fibber McGee and Molly.  I am probably happiest when I'm listening to Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, The Shadow, X Minus One, Dragnet ... the list goes on and on.

And I love more recent radio programs, too, but mostly those from the UK (since Britain never lost its affection for radio the way America did) -- particulary I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, the original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and that most sublime half-hour of insanity: The Goon Show.

All of this has urged me toward creating radio dramas of my own ...

DON'T GET ME STARTED

Lee in the WAR OF THE WORLDS LIVESomewhere along the way I've picked up a reputation as an entertaining public speaker. I'm not entirely sure how this got started, but I'm not complaining; I love talking at sci-fi/fantasy conventions, libraries, museums, and other similarly literary venues.

I was thrilled to be the "state scholar" for the Smithsonian Institution's touring exhibit "Yesterday's Tomorrows," which had me going all over Alabama talking about past visions of the future. Since then I've been asked back to many of the same venues to talk about science fiction, comic strips, Sherlock Holmes, Tolkien, classic movies, and other geeky things. I remain perpetually This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

THE FUNNY PAGES

My proposal for a Sherlock Holmes postage stampIn the midst of all this I made time to draw lots of cartoons, mostly about Sherlock Holmes, reflecting my lifelong love of that extraordinary character. My Sherlockian series called "From the Doctor's Diary," had a long run in The Baker Street Journal.

When I was a lad I drew cartoons all the time (ask any of my high school teachers) and my main goal in life was to write and draw a story-oriented daily newspaper comic strip. As time went by I realized that the aspect of comics that I liked best was not the drawing but the writing -- so in a way I've attained my dream after all.

BACKGROUND CHECK

Let's see, what have I missed? I was born and raised in north central Alabama but have about as much affection for Alabama as I feel the state deserves. I was brought up in the Church of Christ -- even ordained as a minister in that denomination, believe it or not -- but now identify myself as a Unitarian Universalist. If you don't know what that is, I encourage you to look into it. I love the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but my favorite author of all time is P.G. Wodehouse. I collect toy robots. I love to travel.

And I think that's already more about me than any reasonable person could possibly want to know.

 

Page 1: Professional History  ¦ Page 2: Scripts Made to Order

Today I can claim -- rather to my astonishment -- more than 150 produced scripts for stage, screen, and radio. Some of my stage scripts are available to professional and amateur groups for production, and you can learn about all of them here.

Stage

[url=www.imdb.com/name/nm0306937]Alan Gardner[/url] as Watson and me (seated, with Holmesian Hairpiece) as the great detective, in HOLMES & WATSON at the Theatre at Saint Peter's in 1990

My best-known work continues to be HOLMES & WATSON, in which Holmes returns to Baker Street after being presumed dead for years -- and finds he will have to heal the rift this has caused with his former best friend.   In 1990 I had the extraordinary experience of playing Sherlock Holmes in the off-Broadway production, which closed to standing-room-only houses and gained the praise of two of my heroes: Isaac Asimov and Jeremy Brett.  

The success of HOLMES & WATSON encouraged me to keep writing stage plays, and my dear old alma mater kept producing them. (UAB had mounted the first-ever production of H&W in 1989; it was there producer Bernard Block saw it and offered to take it to New York.)

The humans face the end of the world in the UAB production of R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)

Those plays have included all the adaptations for young audiences mentioned above, a number of ten-minute plays, the notoriousmayfliesfast, and -- perhaps most famously -- a new adaptation of R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)

That production was, in many ways, a dream come true. I'd been looking for a way to combine my passion for live theatre and my love of science fiction, so it seemed only logical that I write a new adaptation of Karel ŒČapek's 1920 Czech play that gave the world the word "robot."

The UAB production in 2002 was a beauty to behold, thanks largely to scenic designer Kelly Allison and costume designer Kim Schnormeier. Since then the script has been performed by a surprising and ever-growing number of school and community theatre groups.

Screen

When I'm invited to sci-fi/fantasy conventions, it is usually so I can talk about my experiences in writing for TV, a brief period in my career which included writing stories for STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (particularly the one that would ultimately become "Ship in a Bottle") -- and scripts for a then-fledgling cable network that would one day call itself The Sci-Fi Channel (and later -- ick -- Syfy). One of these was the disappointing UFO DIARIES -- which you can still find on tape in various places, being mocked as the schlock that it was.

Radio

Chalethia Williams and James A. McCarty Jr recording an episode of BODYLOVE

Meanwhile, my writing for the stage practically stopped -- because I was busy writing for radio. I have always loved radio drama and wistfully dreamed of having been born a few decades earlier so I might have had a chance to write for something like The Shadow or Suspense. And my wish was granted with the advent of BODYLOVE, thanks to my friend in education-entertainment Dr. Connie Kohler. First she and I led a team of writers creating the series, then I was Head Writer and ultimately Head Writer and Producer. Between 2003 and 2006 we wrote, recorded, and aired 80 fifteen-minute episodes -- basically a single story 20 hours long, a whopping 1,200 script pages. The show was heard all over the southeast and turns up in markets as far-flung as the Caribbean.

The BODYLOVE project gave rise to a sequel of sorts, a serial in three-minute episodes called KEEPING UP WITH THE WALKERS. Once again I was the head writer, this time collaborating with the gifted Alex LaFosta.

My most recent radio project has taken me to prison, specifially the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama. Once again I had Dr. Kohler to thank for the opportunity of working with a group of people to create the health-issues radio drama CORRECTIONS. This time the collaborators were inmates, a select group of dedicated guys who wanted to express their concerns and feelings about the health issues they face in that environment.

Made to Order

Now I specialize in creating new scripts to suit any occasion, group, or venue. And you can read more about that on the next page...

Page 1: Professional History  ¦ Page 2: Scripts Made to Order

Page 1: Professional History  ¦  Page 2: Scripts Made to Order

My freelance specialty is in creating customized scripts for schools, churches, theatre groups, museums, fundraisers of any kind -- in other words, for anyone who needs a script written especially for them. Since 1987, I have been writing stage plays, screenplays, and radio scripts for a wide variety of clients and venues. You can hire me to write something for you, too!

These are some of the clients I've had the pleasure of writing for over the years...

WHITT BRANTLEY MANAGEMENT & TALENT

HILL STUDIOS / JOHN BURZICHELLI

  • The Jersey Devil

THEATRE UAB BOOKENDS:

  • The Amazing Traveling Aesop Show
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • The Thousand and One Nights
  • The Ransom of Red Chief
  • The Legend of Robin Hood
  • Six Tales from Six Continents

UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM:

  • Super!
  • Misconduct (Research Ethics Play)
  • (Research Ethics Multi-Path Film)
  • Nursing Veterans
  • Sexual Harassment Training
  • Picture This
  • Based on a True Story
  • The End Justifies

VULCAN PARK AND MUSEUM

  • Anything is Possible
  • The V Touring Show
  • Too Many Questions: an evening with Virginia Durr
  • Crossing Lines
  • Love in the Ruins: the Mind of Walker Percy

CAHABA VALLEY CHURCH:

  • A Rock and a Hard Place
  • Yet the World Knew Him Not
  • Revised Standards
  • Abdication
  • Struck Blind!
  • Something Might Happen
  • Hit and Run
  • Pawn to King's Bishop

GREAT ADVENTURES:

  • Great Adventures of the Bible

THE SEASONED READERS:

  • Tale of the Iron Man
  • Town Above, Tunnels Below
  • Suspicion

Page 1: Professional History  ¦  Page 2: Scripts Made to Order

Karen Shackleford and friendI'm Karen Dill-Shackleford and I'm a media psychologist. I earned my Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of MO-Columbia in 1997. Now I teach in the Media Psychology Doctoral Program at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, CA.

Some of my research has been widely cited and has been the subject of many media interviews in the US and throughout the world. I've studied and written about multiple forms of media from magazines and video games to music and meditation podcasts. Right now my principle interest is in how immersion into the world of fictional story influences our everyday lives. In other words, how are we different because we are immersed in media?

Because I've written some critical things about some aspects of certain video games, many people think I am a "media hater"! The photo above gives a better idea of my real feelings about video games.

One of my favorite “honors” is having a fictional car -- the Karin Dilletante -- named for me in Grand Theft Auto IV. The car was a tongue-in-cheek response to my criticism of the violence and sexism in that game series.  I'm just glad they didn't put me in the game as a hooker.

I'm also proud to be the author of How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence and the editor of the Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology (2013).

In 2000 I was asked to give expert testimony before Congress on media violence, and 2007 I testified again on misogyny in rap music lyrics. The statement on interactive media violence that I co-authored led to the APA’s Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media.

You may enjoy reading my blog -- it's called How Fantasy Becomes Reality and is part of the Psychology Today website. I also write a blog for Oxford University Press.

I love to travel, so I've enjoyed being invited to speak at conferences in Chile, South Korea, Hungary, Luxembourg, and England -- and all across the United States. I am available for booking! 

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