Fort Worth — This year, North Texas' most unique theatrical outfit, Hip Pocket Theatre, celebrates its 40th anniversary. After Dallas Theater Center, Casa Mañana, Theatre Three and a few community theaters, it's DFW's oldest continuously running theater.
To celebrate the occasion, the 40th season includes a storied work that many consider co-founder Johnny Simons' signature work, his autobiographical rock musical The Lake Worth Monster. Even those of us who've been going to Hip Pocket for 20 years have only heard about this piece. Created with his HPT co-founder, Douglas Balentine, who died in 2008, it premiered in 1975 as Simons' Texas Christian University Master's Thesis, performed in the Solarium of the old Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the space that is now the Sanders Theatre in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. Monster was first staged at Hip Pocket in 1978, and was revived once more in 1989. You can see a gallery of images from this production in the HPT online archive here.
The season begins on June 3 with one of HPT's most revived works, Johnny Simons' commedia dell'arte take on Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, followed by a new Johnny Simons work, The Distant Echo of Ancient Youth, inspired by The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.
Next up is this year's entry from Lake Simons, the youngest of Johnny and wife Diane's two daughters, who been a staple in New York's puppetry and physical theater scene for about 15 years. It's a "visual theater" take on Don Quixote, which is a piece we're hearing a lot about lately because 1616 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes. (In case you haven't heard, that was the year another literary giant, Shakespeare, kicked the bucket; and both were in April.)
Then comes The Lake Worth Monster, followed by the final weekend of the season, which, like the last few years, is a Hip Film Fest with screenings of productions from the theater's history. On that lineup is The Three Cuckolds. Although the filmed production is from a 1985 revival, this was Hip Pocket's first production in 1976.
Here's the complete season with dates and descriptions. For ticket info, visit www.hippocket.org. Hip Pocket's shows are performed at Silver Creek Amphitheatre, an outdoor, wooden theater in far west Fort Worth. There's a restaurant on premises that serves barbecue, snacks, beer (and good beer!) and wine.
Mr. Weaver’s Backyard Circus Presents “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”
by Mark Twain, Stage Adaptation by Johnny Simons
On a summer’s eve, neighbors gather to perform Twain’s classic tale of a modern day factory worker dropped unexpectedly into a land where wizards roam the Earth, Knights joust in the cause of honor, and Camelot’s King reigns supreme.
The Distant Echo of Ancient Youth
By Johnny Simons
A dramatic journey through song and poetry inspired by The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche (1992).
by Miguel de Cervantes, adapted and directed by Lake Simons with music by John Dyer
Aug. 12-Sept. 4
A rustic classic character and his imaginings brought to life through visual theatre and live music.
The Lake Worth Monster – A Musical Odyssey
By Johnny Simons and Douglas Balentine
Sept. 16-Oct. 16
“I live out on the lake
I live there for the sake of my soul
The lake is deep and wide
With secrets swimming deep down inside”
Hip Film Fest
Oct. 28 - 30
Oct. 28: Bad Girls in the Big City (2003)
Oct. 29: The Three Cuckolds (1985)
Oct. 30: Preview for the Spacefleet Landing on Earth in 2001 A.D. by Uriel, Cosmic Visionary (2002)