Johnny Simons

Doris Duke Impact Award, 2014

Fort Worth, TX

Hailing from Fort Worth, TX, Johnny Simons writes and directs plays of singular poetic expression through the use of mime, pantomime, music, dance, puppetry, and the spoken word. Simons is artistic director and resident playwright of Hip Pocket Theatre, an ensemble he founded with his wife, Diane Simons and composer Douglas Balentine in 1976. Now a theatre under the stars, Hip Pocket Theatre has premiered over one- hundred of Simons’s plays including Fuzzbug Follies (2013), a pastiche of pantomime, dance, and popular musical recordings from the 1940s; and Trio Molemo (2009) in which Simons’s alter ego Molemo performs with Simons’ actual daughters, Lorca and Lake. Simons has teamed with internationally renowned artists Ariel Dorfman, Basil Twist, Robert Crumb, Gabrielle Roth, and the Talking Band. Simons stages his adaptation of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in October 2014.

  • Photo Credit: Loli Kantor
  • Out of the Blue (2009)
  • Do-si-do (2008)
  • Photo Credit: Dylan Griffin
    Trio Molemo (2009)

Artistically, what do you do & why do you do it?

The remnant of an ancient idea with Arlecchino patches and rusty rags flutters on a prairie wind somewhere in the middle of a dreamscape of weathered wood and cactus blossoms, perfuming warm night air. I'm sitting in my Hip Pocket Theatre. Its texture reminds me of my face, furrowed with lines running through, like years, reflecting all thirty-seven seasons of plays, pantomimes, and rituals of expression created here.

I'm seventy-four years old. I've been making-believe since childhood. I'll continue making-believe until the day I die, knowing nothing more than how to pretend and create theatre. This is my home, carved from a wilderness still breathing. My hands, rough and raw, are scraped and scarred from performing chores that accompany my role as artistic director. I love it here, and wish simply to continue exploring through artful experimentation as playwright, performer, director, scenic artist, and elderly child.