Shawn O’Shea, producing artistic director and founder of Writing Man Production, died May 9 after a long battle with HIV/AIDS.
He was 42. O’Shea, an Upper Darby native, lived in both San Francisco and Philadelphia for most of his life, but relocated back to California recently. O’Shea dedicated his life to the arts and started his career in theater after working as a sales representative for the Wilma Theater’s fundraising and subscription campaign. “He helped raise vital funds to continue the Wilma mission,” said friend Mark Dahl. Dahl remembered O’Shea as an all-around positive employee and said it was at Wilma where O’Shea realized his passion for playwriting, a field he entered after working as a journalist for 25 years. “He was great, always upbeat and laughing and great to be around,” Dahl said. “Being around all that theater and after he did journalism for 25 years, he said, ‘I think I want to write a play.’” O’Shea founded Writing Man Productions in 2007 and wrote and produced his first play shortly after, called “Starlight Supply,” which premiered at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Dahl said he admired O’Shea’s playwriting talent. “He was a great artist and playwright, and he was able to do what a lot of people can’t do — write and pull a scene together and produce it, direct it and present it on the stage. He had all those capabilities.” Michael Stimson worked as the production manager for a show O’Shea directed and said he had a great work ethic. “We worked on a show called ‘Ships’ for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival three years ago. He was an awesome director,” Stimson said. “I never hung out with him outside of working, but he was a fantastic director. He made everything a collaborative effort. He was a pretty cool guy.” O’Shea wrote a blog for Salon.com titled “Life in Recovery from Crystal Meth, Booze & AIDS.” Dahl added that O’Shea was an honest person who was open about his AIDS diagnosis. “I liked his honesty,” he said. “He was an easygoing guy, he didn’t get upset easily and he was patient and brutally honest about living with AIDS and his struggles. It was rare to find someone that honest.” To read O’Shea’s blog, visit www.open.salon.com/blog/shawn_oshea/2012/03/29/living_with_hivaids.