Shadley Grei is Iowa born & bred, and has lived in LA for a total of three years (this being the fourth time he has lived here). He moved here this time for a job in the entertainment industry, but got laid off after nine months. Since then he has been mostly unemployed, although he is currently ghostwriting a memoir.
As you might expect, life has not gone quite the way he wanted, but with the success of his recent play, Marshall’s Law, that may soon change. Marshall’s Law is the first play Grei has had produced in Los Angeles. He previously had a play produced in Des Moines, which was actually a prequel to Marshall’s Law.
“It gets very very frustrating. There are moments I just want to go back to Iowa and open a bakery. I don’t want to do this because it’s so hard but at the same time nothing feeds me or makes me feel as alive as doing theater. Truth be told, I’d rather be miserably pursuing this than happily doing something else.”
After debuting the play during the 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival, and earning a spot in the Best of Fringe Extensions, Grei is preparing to take the show to New York City for their Fringe Festival, which runs August 9-25. Those performances will mark the 13th anniversary of the first time he was on stage as an actor.
Grei likes to write under limitations, such as keeping the play under one hour, with a cast of two people who spend the entire time just talking, all the while keeping the audience engaged without getting bored.
Grei wrote the first three pages of what would become Marshall’s Law six years ago. He had intended it to be a something that he and a friend could do. But the original opening scene was so emotionally open and raw that Grei didn’t know where to go with it.
The play grew out of Grei’s fascination with the definition of Fatherhood. Grei didn’t meet his own dad until he was 35 years old. He grew up without a father and became a stepfather in a past relationship. When that relationship ended, he was more devastated at losing his relationship with the kids than with his ex.
Along came Kristen Johnston, who Grei loved in Third Rock From the Sun. He read her book, Guts, about her struggles with addiction and self-acceptance. Johnston was six feet tall at the age of 13, and had so much judgment and fame coming at her that was hard to accept.
Grei began communicating with Johnston on Facebook and Twitter and received an interesting message from her – “If you’re such a fan, then why aren’t you following me?” He started following her immediately and continuing communicating with her until he had a chance to visit New York City. Johnston invited him to a play, an invitation which developed into a great friendship. Johnston inspired Grei to finish Marshall’s Law because he wanted to do the show with her. Johnston provided tremendous support and advice on the project.
Grei then shared the draft with his friend Sarah Maloney, who read the script and immediately signed them up for the Hollywood Fringe. On a dare, he also submitted the show to the NYC Fringe. They were sitting in the Ritual Cafe in Des Moines, his favorite coffeehouse, and working on a film project when they received the email telling them they had been accepted into the NYC Fringe.
Grei brought in his roommate, Danielle Taddei, to play the second character in the play. In turn, Taddei brought in the director, who had been her acting coach at DePaul.
“I’m really excited to take the show to NYC where I lived for seven years. It’s been a crazy year and I’m happy to be going where it all started with Kristen. My Facebook friends that I’m known since 2nd grade tell me I’m inspiring because I’m doing what they wish they were doing – a 40 years old who’s still pursuing his dream. I know I’m a storyteller, and I want to make people feel less alone. I can’t quit because they need me and I like to be needed.”
Marshall’s Law has two final performances this weekend, Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Lounge Theatre before packing up and heading to New York City. I highly recommend checking out this show, and wishing Grei much success on the next leg of his journey.
NYC – August 9-25