Forty-five years ago, Johnny Simons — along with songwriter Douglas Balentine and Simons’ wife Diane — co-founded Hip Pocket Theatre in Fort Worth. At the time, there was not much onstage in town other than Casa Manana, touring shows and some community theaters. In sharp contrast, Hip Pocket was a plucky, adventuresome, oddball, outdoor stage company – that eventually became a beloved Fort Worth institution.
But Hip Pocket’s current season will be Johnny Simons’ last. The writer-director-performer turns 82 in August — and he’s retiring.
On this particular night, Hip Pocket’s rustic wooden stage was filled with big-band jazz, the thump-thump-thump of a dancing chorus and the night sounds of crickets. In the company’s new show, Curmudgeon Boogie (Into the Shadows) — which he’s written and directed — Simons also plays the title character, a grey-bearded, red-nosed silent clown – with a few grudges against our modern world.