Hot Thespian Action

Premieres compete with old faves on summer theater schedule

He used to see plays for a living. Now Tom Sime is writing them.

The former Dallas Morning News and Dallas Observer theater critic left journalism a few years ago to work full-time in professional theater. Soon Sime will oversee the first full-scale local production of one of his plays, All of the Above, an offbeat "tragic comedy" set in a repressive state called "Texanastan." The heroine is a deaf-blind-mute philanthropist who falls in love with a thief whose hands have been amputated as punishment for his crimes. The play will be a co-production of the Modern Stage, a new company founded by Sime, and Risk Theater Initiative. Running July 20 through August 12, the show will be performed in the Studio Theatre at WaterTower Theatre in Addison (972-450-6232).

In a summer schedule crowded with big-name musicals, edgy dramas, Shakespeare in the park and the ninth annual Festival of Independent Theaters, All of the Above already is generating buzz in theater circles. Director Marianne Galloway (who recently staged the sell-out production of Shadowlands at Contemporary Theatre, where Sime is managing director) will work with Dallas' top scenic artist, Randel Wright, to design the show. The cast includes frequent Undermain Theatre star Shannon Kearns-Simmons in the difficult leading role of Helene; with Susan Sargeant, best known as a director at CTD, WingSpan and other companies, as translator Charlotte; and Second Thought Theatre actor Mike Schraeder as Edward, the thief.

The idea for the play came from a question Sime says he asked himself: How would you make Helen Keller laugh? "And I pictured a blank stage and thought about what I would want to see happen," says Sime. "I tried to write something I hadn't seen before. Not avant-garde or groundbreaking, but filling a gap in what I was seeing. After 15 years of looking at plays, I knew what I wanted to see."

Sime has already had some success with All of the Above. It won top prize in a 2005 playwriting contest at North Carolina's Catawba College and was produced with a student cast there. The play was well-received in a professional staged reading here at the Bath House Cultural Center. That led to offers of financing for this summer's production in Addison. That doesn't mean the script isn't still in flux. Sime says he's done four rewrites and is still tinkering. "Recently a lightning bolt made me change the ending," Sime says. "Originally it had a happy ending, but I realized that was bogus and something terrible had to happen."

In the play, that is. A happy ending for this former critic would be a bunch of rave reviews.

Highlights on other stages this summer:

Shakespeare Dallas waxes poetic with romance and tragedy in alternating performances through June and July of two of the Bard's best-loved works—Romeo and Juliet and Love's Labour's Lost. Both star large casts of professional actors on the big stage outdoors at Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre, where picnicking with friends under the stars is part of a summer tradition. (Just don't forget the skeeter repellent.) Romeo and Juliet previews June 13 and 14, opens June 15, continues June 24 through July 21 on Sundays, Tuesdays and Saturdays with additional performances on June 16 and 17. Love's Labour's Lost previews June 21 and 22, opens June 23, continues on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through July 20. Call 214-559-2778.

Dallas Summer Musicals at Fair Park find former soap vixen Lisa Rinna dancin' as the star of Chicago, June 5-17. Monty Python's Spamalot, a musical by Eric Idle based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, plays June 19-July 8. (It won the Best Musical Tony in 2005.) Former Trading Spaces host Paige Davis has replaced Molly Ringwald as hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Charity Hope Valentine in the national touring company of Sweet Charity, July 24-August 5. Call 214-631-ARTS.

End Times gets its world premiere production at Kitchen Dog Theater June 8-July 1. Tina Parker directs Allison Moore's new play about a farm wife faced with droughts, plagues of grasshoppers, disease and financial collapse. Is it the end of the world or just another Dust Bowl in the making? Call 214-953-1055.

Garland Summer Musicals presents Hello, Dolly! (June 15-24) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (July 20-29), featuring lavish costumes and the original Broadway choreography. These semi-professional productions give scads of young singers and dancers their first tastes of showbiz bigger than a high school musical. Call 972-205-2790.

Tick, Tick...Boom! was written by Jonathan Larson before his better-known Rent made it to Broadway (a hit, sadly, he didn't live to see). Uptown Players produces the regional premiere of Larson's first musical June 8-July 1. The story depicts Larson's struggle to become the composer of the great American musical as his 30th birthday looms. Then Dallas actor-writers Doug Miller and Bob Hess premiere their musical adaptation of Valley of the Dolls (August 17-September 9), Jackie Susann's classic 1960s pulp novel of starlets, drugs and steamy sex. Call 214-219-2718.

Sylvia, playing June 8-July 1 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, is playwright A.R. Gurney's fanciful comedy about a stray dog adopted by a middle-aged Manhattan financial whiz and his wife. The pooch (played at CTD by SMU theater grad Catherine DuBord) transforms their lives. Directed by Susan Sargeant. Call 214-828-0094.

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