Columbia Entertainment Co. VP gives insight on creative inclusion

Derek Shoults, a local actor, and CEC VP, has evolved greatly with the power of creative versatility and has carved out a place in Columbia’s theater scene.

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Columbia Entertainment Co. has been in operation since 1979. CEC has provided Columbia residents with various theatrical performances and has fostered creativity for those who have taken part in CEC’s projects over the years.

Vice President Derek Shoults said CEC has been an outlet for him to express himself as a visionary. On the road to acting and producing, Shoults had to face the many Catch-22s that came with being a creator. However, he has managed to come away with a broader understanding of what he is passionate about and the importance of flexibility as an artist.

Shoults joined CEC in 2014. His first performance was in the Monty Python musical, “Spamalot.” It was with this performance that Shoults began to lay the foundations to cement himself as a permanent fixture at CEC.

“I was a huge Monty Python nerd, and back in the day I knew most of it by heart,” Shoults said. “So, I went out and auditioned for it and got the part of the Knight who says ‘Ni.’ I also played a Laker Girl, where I was in drag for that role and I’ve been doing shows ever since. Last June, I joined the board of directors, because I wanted to get more involved with the theater and decision making.”

Before his time at CEC, Shoults was a student at MU who had a passion for screenwriting. The prospect of creating something has been a major appeal for him for much of his life, but it was in college when he really began to find his voice.

Shoults’ overall creative process focuses not only on his individual thoughts, but also naturally includes others’ thoughts. For any project Shoults takes on, he not only gives it a unique spin, but also puts other people’s ideas forward and adds them to his overall creative narrative.

As reported by Inside Columbia, Shoults and his wife, Kate, have become what the magazine called “a staging power couple.” The two helped produce and direct CEC’s January 2019 production of the 2008 Tony Award-winning musical “Next to Normal,” which follows the story of a typical suburban family with emotions boiling beneath the surface. Unlike the musical, however, Shoults has found liberation via the arts; Nothing is left below the surface.

Ryan DeLeon, a fellow CEC board member and actor, has witnessed the evolution of Shoults’ creative process over a period of four years. Shoults and DeLeon met during the CEC’s musical adaptation of the 80s high school drama “Heathers the Musical.” They have since been able to unite their creative energies to perform in a variety of projects, such as a satirical podcast reading Craigslist posts called “For Sale by Owner.” It was in this collaboration DeLeon realized how Shoults opened him up to a whole new way of thinking.

"Derek is always fantasizing of different ideas and how to turn them into their own universes,” DeLeon said. "I’ve always found that fascinating about him. With the podcast, he roped me into opening up and showed me how easy it was to be funny and be myself."

For much of his life, Shoults said his ultimate lifetime goal was, for him, set in stone. He would not be deterred from his passions. At the same time, however, what Shoults has found is that, in life, one of the best things a person can be is flexible. To approach one’s ideas from a different angle if they don’t work the first time, or to be able to find satisfaction in an entirely different path is a crucial skill.

“My goal was screenwriting, that was where I was headed,” Shoults said. “I actually got into a master’s program for screenwriting in Los Angeles. I was there for a semester, and it did not agree with me. I transferred that [credit] when I came back to Mizzou and began to work on prose, fictional writing, instead of writing of the screen. I have always had a heart for written fiction. Influences can come from all over, and it’s great to diversify what you’re willing to do, as that will open up many avenues for you.”

Edited by Janae McKenzie | jmckenzie@themaneater.com

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