Posted inArts & Culture

Facing blazing heat, Hip Pocket Theatre moves indoors for production

How hot is it? It’s hot enough that a nearly 50-year-old outdoor theater is moving indoors, at least temporarily. 

Fort Worth’s Hip Pocket Theatre – known for 47 years of plays and musicals mostly under the big and bright Texas stars – is relocating the final two weekends of its current show, White Elephant. The show is moving to the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy St. 

“After canceling four out of the last six performances due to the extreme heat, we knew we needed to do something to continue the performances while protecting our cast, crew, staff and patrons from heat-related complications,” said Lake Simons, managing artistic director.

The decision was not easy, she said. 

“You have actors, crew, everyone really involved that are ready, they want to go on, the old ‘show must go on’ spirit,” she said. “But on the other hand, you look at the forecast and you have to set some parameters.” 

The parameter that Hip Pocket Theatre set was if the forecasted heat index at show’s start time of 9 p.m.was 100 or more, the show would not go on. 

“Triple digits can sneak up on the healthiest of individuals,” said Simons. 

Between May 1 and Aug. 1 MedStar has treated 606 patients for a heat-related illness, with 453 of those being transported to area hospitals. Thirty-eight of those have been in serious or critical condition.  

Last year was the first time the theater canceled performances due to extreme heat, she said. “Usually it is thunderstorms or rain that cause us to cancel,” Simons said. 

With the decision to not do the show outside made, Hip Pocket began looking for a place to do the show in more temperate settings. 

It found a spot at the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. 

“The arts community in Fort Worth helps each other out,” said Quentin McGown, president of the Hip Pocket board. “We were really fortunate to find a space that could accommodate us.” 

There was some retrofitting for the approximately 100-seat ‘black box’ theater with plenty of adjustable walls and floor space.”

The show, “White Elephant,” was written by Simons and John Dyer. It uses an elephant as a spirit guide and features poetic vignettes about people, animals and objects. Using very little dialogue, the story is told through images, movement, puppetry, mask, super 8 film and live music.

“John and I had staged it before in New York, in 2009, but it has been updated and we’re excited to present it in a new form,” said Simons. 

Although the move to an indoor venue is a different format for the theater founded in 1976 by Simons’ parents, Johnny and Diane Simons and Douglas Ballentine, the show will maintain some of the Hip Pocket traditions, including music before the show. 

“We want people to get that Hip Pocket feeling,” McGown said. 

And though it is a new venue for Hip Pocket, in many ways it is a return to the theater’s roots. 

Co-founder Johnny Simons performed a play he had written in graduate school, “The Lake Worth Monster,” in the solarium of what is now the Community Arts Center. 

“Here we are 47 years later, and we’re sort of back where we began,” said McGown. 

As the weather gets cooler, Hip Pocket is planning to present the rest of the season at its Silver Creek Road location. 

“We have the bulk of our season left to go and we’re hoping the weather will improve, but we’ll be prepared if it’s not,” said Simons. 

If You Go 

What: “White Elephant” by Lake Simons and John Dyer. 

Where: Hip Pocket Theatre at the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy St.

When: Performances begin at 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Aug. 20; the doors open at 8 p.m. No late seating. 

Cost: Adult tickets are $25 on Fridays and Saturdays and $20 on Sundays, with reduced prices for seniors, military, teachers, students and children 12 and under. Tickets are available by calling 817-246-9775, at the door or the Hip Pocket website.

Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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