Group therapy: The cast of My Favorite Animal (l to r): David Lugo, Sylvia Luedtke, Trista Wyly, Shane Strawbridge and Josh Hepola. Photo by George Wada.
Listen to the on-air story here:
Read the Dallas Morning News review of My Favorite Animal.
My Favorite Animal runs through this weekend.
REHEARSAL: (Shane Strawbridge) “What’s the deal with these pictures?
(Josh Hepola) “What’s with them? Well, they’re paintings. … hanging on a wall … for decoration.”
“But where’d you get ’em?”
“I painted them.”
“Yes, I did.”
We’re at a rehearsal of Tom Sime’s new comedy My Favorite Animal, which opened last weekend at Teatro Dallas. For 10 years, Sime was a theater critic at the Dallas Morning News. In five years as a dramatist, he has written seven plays. And appropriately for this scene between an artist- therapist and his unpleasant patient, he’s also a painter. His paintings have been shown in New York City galleries.
And now Sime, his plays and some of his paintings are moving to New York.
Artists leave Texas for New York every month. It’s a pretty familiar tale — except that Sime is taking several local actors and production people with him. He’s co-producing his New York stage debut himself. My Favorite Animal, a comedy about gender confusions, is scheduled to open November 10 at the 45th Street Theater. It’s a small, 99-seat theater — but conveniently, it’s only two blocks from the Broadway theater district.
SIME: “I always have wanted to live in New York. But I love Dallas, and I’m going to miss it very much. I’m sad about leaving. I wish I didn’t have to leave, I wish I could do what I want to do here.”
Photo by Mark Oristano
What Sime wants to do is to try the commercial theater, theater as a profit-making business. Sime left journalism to help run the Contemporary Theater and was the managing director there for three and a half years — raising money, working out budgets, serving drinks at intermission.
SIME: “I love the way the nonprofit theater culture has proliferated across the country. I think it has been hugely important. But I want to try the other side of it where theater fends for itself as a business.”
He got a little exhausted, he says, in the nonprofit world because it essentially takes the position that art is a charity, that art is a worthy cause.
SIME: “I think it is. I think art is the most important thing, whether it’s nonprofit or commercial. But I just would like to try to attract investors rather than grants. Really, the only place in this country where theater is a business is New York City. So that’s really the only place I can go.”
Born in Illinois, the 49-year-old Sime has lived in Dallas since 1969. He became a journalist by accident, he says.
SIME: “I always wrote, I always made visual art. So those two things have been neck-and-neck as far as what was pulling my attention at any one time. But I dropped out of school and then I dragged my ass back at 30 and got my bachelor’s degree. And when I was going to college, one of my professors liked my writing. And he recommended me to be a critic at the Observer. It’s not the kind of job people line up to get, so I got it really easily. They just sent me out to review a play, and they liked the review, and they said, ‘Yeah, he’ll do, keep him going.’ And it just kind of went from there.”
Sime says that working as a theater critic was great preparation for writing plays. He saw thousands, learned what he liked, what he thought could work. It also was how he met his producing partner, Joe Black. Sime reviewed an earlier New York-bound show of Black’s and they met again at the Contemporary Theatre when Black was looking for new plays to produce.
The talking cure: therapist Josh Hepola and his patient-with-a-secret, Trista Wyly. Photo by George Wada
SIME: “Basically, what happened was I was able to form a business partnership that’s going to let me try this as my job for awhile. See, what we want to do is develop plays here and take them out there and maybe vice versa, too.”
Sime has sold his house in Dallas and sub-let an apartment in New York He’ll be putting up a few Dallas actors there while they perform at the 45th Street Theater. It’s the kind of cost-saving that theater people — commercial or nonprofit — would recognize.
Another of Sime’s cost-saving measures will be something of an in-joke. Those “awful” paintings decorating the set of My Favorite Animal will be his own.
Portrait: Tom Sime is the first of an occasional series of artists’ profiles by Art&Seek.