Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Femi Euba


Johnny Simons is a Commedia Dell' Arte master who brought contemporary commedic movement theatre to the American Southwest and deserves academic attention. Simons and his collaborators, Diane Simons and Doug Balentine, founded the Hip Pocket Theatre to explore original theatre that reflected their chthonic identity. Simons is an auteur, serving as playwright, lyricist, director, choreographer, designer, and technical director for his productions. His works synthesize classical forms with the archetypal associations of his childhood. This study examines Simons' pedagogical approach to his "lyric grotesque" genre of movement theatre. A documented recreation of Simons' most definitive work, the folk/rock operatic-ballet, The Lake Worth Monster, provides access to a Hip Pocket Theatre experience. Paul Baker's "Integration of Abilities" philosophy serves as a model for the examination of Simons' creative vision. Baker analyzes theatrical tension through the vocabulary of space, silhouette, rhythm, texture, sound/silence, and line. This study provides comparisons between the genealogy of Simons native characters and the iconic models from the Commedia (the Arlecchino, the Pantalone, the Capitano, and the Dottore). It also discusses the contributions of Simons' mentors, David Preston, Walther Volbach, Jacques Lecoq, and Bill Garber, to his definitions of the commedic character forms. The work briefly discusses theoretical and philosophical perspectives as applied to Simons' commedic performance displays and the Hip Pocket Theatre. The examined viewpoints include the mythic, corporeal dialectics, "inversion," Christianity, alternative religion, the "Other," "liminality," Foucault's "episteme," "Chaos" theory, and secondary realities.