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This Klutz Comes up a Winner

We also wish we had a better photo of Tom Sime.

Tom Sime, longtime theater critic at Dallas’ Only Daily till 2005 and a former Dallas Observer writer, has stumbled, at age 48, into a new career as a playwright. His play Klutz Theory just won Stage West’s first Texas Playwriting Competition. The contest held by the Fort Worth theater drew 53 entries, mostly from writers in Dallas and Fort Worth (playwrights had to have been Texas residents for at least two years).

Sime’s play is a romantic comedy about a bunch of heartbroken people who meet and couple up in unexpected ways at a ballroom dancing class. Apparently the play won fair and square without anyone knowing who wrote it or any of the judges tipping the results -- unlike some other local writing contests we’re heard of.

Stage West’s Dana Schultes reports that all submissions to the play contest were read “blind” by a judging panel, meaning the scripts had no names attached. In three rounds of reading, Sime’s play kept rising to the top. Schultes reports that Klutz Theory was a standout all along, and everyone was surprised to discover the writer’s identity in the end.

The first runner-up in the competition was White Buffalo by Don Zolidis, a play with Native American influences. Other finalists were Big Criminals by Steve Wisniewski, An Hour South by Vicki Cheatwood, Jill the Ripper by Angela Gant, Scenes from a Romance by Norman A. Best, and Avatar by Isabella Russell-Ides.

Klutz Theory receives a $250 prize and will be presented in a staged reading by professional local actors at Stage West at 7:30 p.m. on August 14 (with the possibility of a full production at the theater next season).

Stage West plans to make its Texas playwrights’ competition an annual event, says Schultes, and notices for next year will go out in January, with a deadline of April 15, 2008. So get writing, people.

Don’t have to tell Sime to do that: He has a full-time job as managing director at Sue Loncar’s Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, but when he’s not dealing with pesky actors backstage or pouring drinks for patrons at intermission (the man makes an evil appletini), he’s typing. Like a madman, he’s typing. Since leaving the daily paper in 2005, he has completed at least one play a year and says he always has something new in the works.

Instead of leaving those scripts on a hard drive or in a desk drawer, he actually does stuff with them. Sime’s dramedy All of the Above, about a deaf-mute-and-blind woman who falls in love with a thief with no hands, won a playwriting contest in North Carolina last year. That play will get its local premiere by Risk Theatre Initiative, in association with Sime’s own Modern Stage company, this summer, running July 20 through August 12 (214-223-7483 for tix).

Via e-mail (because he’s so good at the typing), Unfair Park asked Tom Sime about being a winning playwright:

So, Mr. Sime, you’ve won another playwriting contest. Going to Disney World?

It feels great to win. I was surprised, delightfully so. I will put the money in the “I Need a Vacation fund,” I think.

The process question: How do you write plays?

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I usually work on one script at a time, but I keep working on 'em for years, off and on. I have five full-length ones in a fairly polished state, but none of them are all the way done. All of the Above is in rehearsals, and I'm still tinkering with it in minor ways. I also have a new one in the works that I just started about three weeks ago after thinking about it a long time. I've got about 75 pages down, but it's very rough. There are also a couple of one-acts and a couple of ten-minute plays in the drawer.

What inspired Klutz Theory? Being a klutz myself. I started with a scene of Curt (the main character) waking up, knocking things over, tripping over his bedsheets--a typical morning for me. Then I decided he would meet this girl like himself. And it went from there. It's great fun to write a funny love story. It feels really good. You get euphoric and horny along with the characters, and imagine the audience will, too.

Do you prefer fresh herbs or dried? I think fresh herbs are probably better, but I'm talking about eating, not cooking.

Sorry about that last question. It was left over from an interview with a chef.<.strong> That’s OK. Being a klutz, I try to stay out of kitchens full of sharp objects, hot liquids and such. --Elaine Liner

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