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?
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.
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!
I'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.
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!
I 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 ...
Somewhere 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.
In 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.
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.
Today I can claim -- rather to my astonishment -- more than 200 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.
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.)
Those plays have included all the adaptations for young audiences mentioned above, a number of ten-minute plays, the notorious mayfliesfast, 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 Čapek'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 the show's 2013 off-Broadway run, it has gone on to become the most-widely-produced adaptation of the classic play. ("Have I got a treat for you," wrote Liz Smith! "...reimagined and restructured for our times by Lee Eric Shackleford...the play remains faithful to Capek's masterpiece...It's excellent.")
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.
Since then I've worked on countless small film projects, usually as a script consultant and occasionally as script doctor. I've enjoyed being of service to many young filmmakers as their scripts were in development ...you won't find my name in the credits because, well, I figured they did the hard part.
My favorite film project so far has been the webseries pilot HERLOCK, which we shot in Hollywood (well, nearby) and put up on YouTube where it has attracted a devoted and ever-growing following. Will we ever make more? Time alone can tell.
For about a decade my writing for stage and screen 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, specifically 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.
Now I specialize in creating new scripts to suit any occasion, group, or venue. And you can read more about that here.
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, and the scripts I've written for them...
• Jessica's Run (feature film screenplay; sequel to LOGAN'S RUN), written with George Clayton Johnson
• 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
• The Emperor's New Clothes
• A Matter of Conscience
• Too Many Questions: an evening with Virginia Durr
• Alvin Vogtle Escapes!
• Love in the Ruins: the Mind of Walker Percy • Anything is Possible
• The V Touring Show
• Crossing Lines
• The Jersey Devil
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM
CAHABA VALLEY CHURCH
• A Rock and a Hard Place
• Great Adventures of the Bible
THE SEASONED READERS
• Tale of the Iron Man