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Tom Sime Lands Residency, Debbie Harry


by Manuel Mendoza 3 Feb 2009

Playwright Tom Sime, who’s also a painter, journalist and former KERA commentator, has been named writer-in-residence at the East Village’s Bleecker Street Theatre, where nine of his plays will receive weekly staged readings starting Monday. Blondie singer Deborah Harry and Ridiculous Theatrical Company veteran Everett Quinton have agreed to appear. The ex-Dallas Morning News staffer […]

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Playwright Tom Sime, who’s also a painter, journalist and former KERA commentator, has been named writer-in-residence at the East Village’s Bleecker Street Theatre, where nine of his plays will receive weekly staged readings starting Monday. Blondie singer Deborah Harry and Ridiculous Theatrical Company veteran Everett Quinton have agreed to appear.

The ex-Dallas Morning News staffer moved to New York last fall to pursue just this kind of thing. Tom has been writing plays for six years or so. My Favorite Animal, Bloodletters and All of the Above have been produced here.

I caught up with Tom by e-mail last night. He tells an interesting tale of entrepreneurship, luck and pluck:

How did the residency come about?

My business partner, Joe Black, is an investor at Bleecker Street Theatre and was pressing for them to get their concessions counter going; it was pretty much dormant, and a wasted opportunity to make money. So that got my foot in the door. Since I have experience managing concessions [as former managing director of Contemporary Theatre of Dallas], I have started a business doing that for them, splitting the profits with the owner, Louis Salamone.

They were also looking for programming for their off nights, and since Louis had seen and really liked My Favorite Animal here, I pitched the Writer in Residence/play reading series idea. And he went for it. I was kind of surprised, but I guess no one had asked before.

How did you get Quinton and Harry?

I saw Everett Quinton in a play called Women Beware Women and then found him on Facebook and sent him the script for All of the Above. He liked it and said he’d do it. He’s very open and approachable.

With Deborah Harry, I heard about this obscure one-off show she was doing, where she was helping out one of her Jazz Passengers colleagues. He’s a music director at a high school in Manhattan, and she did this fundraiser for them. It was really strange, watching her up there singing “The Tide is High” and “Heart of Glass” with a high school band, in this linoleum-floored high school auditorium. She doesn’t have to do this kind of stuff.

Blondie is still active — their most recent CD, The Curse of Blondie from 2004, is just fantastic — and their live shows remain big sellers, especially in Europe and England, where their records are still big sellers, too. Lately they’ve been on a very successful tour with this 30th anniversary Parallel Lines show. But she was a good sport, even a saint, about the whole thing, helping her friend out. And I paid a little extra so I could also go to the “meet and greet” afterward, which was pretty much a receiving-line thing. I waited my turn, shook her hand, introduced myself, handed her the Nancy and Nicole script, and got out of there. They kept telling us how exhausted she was and to make it quick. She may have been tired, but she looked smashing. She’s 63, but up close she looks about 20 years younger than that.

So two days later I got an e-mail saying she had felt dread when I handed it to her — thinking “Oh, [expletive], another bad script,” as she put it — but she had read and loved the play and she thought she could do the reading. I couldn’t believe it. And so fast — most of the time people take six weeks to read a script, if they do at all, and then they say no anyway. I’ve been doing that a lot — giving bigwigs my stuff and seeing what happens. 99 percent of the time they just ignore me. But I feel very lucky that the other 1percent includes Debbie Harry and Everett Quinton (so far).

What else is involved in the residency?

I don’t know yet – I’ll just see what I can get away with.

Nine plays? You’re a writing fool.

This is six years’ worth of writing I’m dumping on New York all at once. And of the nine plays, three are short. But on the other hand, I haven’t even included My Favorite Animal, which is on its own track to get produced, I hope later this year. I have lots of hangups and problems, but writer’s block is not among them.

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  • Look another artist has escaped from provincial Dallas. All the good ones run screaming from here eventually