Talking turkey with kid-at-heart actor and playwright Jeff Swearingen
W.C. Fields may have warned never to work with children or animals, but Jeff Swearingen has carved out a very fulfilling career niche by working with kids (who are sometimes dressed as animals. Or aliens. Even a unicorn once). He founded Plano-based Fun House Theatre and Film with Bren Rapp, and together they have revolutionized the concept of children's theater in Dallas.
From astonishingly deep productions of serious, classic works (Hamlet, The Zoo Story) to adult-themed plays that have been reimagined with a younger bent (this year's magnificent Daffodil Girls, Inspired by David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross) to spoofs that are outright zany (Swearingen's trilogy of holiday shows all center around the nuclear arms race), Fun House isn't afraid to challenge its young actors.
Besides penning a good deal of the company's scripts, Swearingen brings his acting talent to the stage, both at Fun House and other theaters around town. He was part of Dallas Actors Lab's Jailbait, a quartet recognized for Best Ensemble by the DFW Critics Forum this year.
Ahead of the opening of his Ultimate Thanksgiving Experience November 20, Swearingen recently took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun and sometimes ridiculous questions.
Name: Jeff Swearingen
Role in Jeff Swearingen’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Experience: The Great Turkey
Previous work in the DFW area: The Boxer (Bootstraps Comedy Theatre), Tryst in Toledo (Theatre Three), Robot and Dinosaur (Audacity Theatre Lab), The Sound of Fannie (Fun House Theatre and Film), Jailbait (Dallas Actor's Lab)
Where you currently reside: North Dallas
First theater role: The sleigh in The Night Before Christmas
First stage show you ever saw: It was a knights of the round table play, and it was awesome!
Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: When I figured out Han Solo and Indiana Jones were the same guy. Also watching Albert Finney in Scrooge.
Most challenging role you’ve played: Hamlet in two plays going on at the same time. Lots of close seconds on this question.
Special skills: I am the best Battle Bear player in the world.
Something you’re REALLY bad at: Whistling and blowing bubbles with bubble gum. Trampolines are weird to me too.
Current pop culture obsession: Dubstep
Last book you read: Andy Jessup
Favorite movie(s):Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Shawshank Redemption, Amelie, Pan's Labyrinth, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Avengers
Favorite musician(s): Trent Reznor, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Rush, Dave Matthews Band and every Motown singer ever
Favorite song: "Dock at the Bay"
Dream role: Gollum, Bond villain. Lots of these, really. Could go on and on.
Favorite play(s):Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Lobby Hero, Glengarry Glen Ross
Favorite musical(s):The Sound of Fannie! Les Mes and The Phantom of the Opera as well.
Favorite actors/actresses: Too many to name. So so many.
Favorite food: Sushi and pizza. Twisted Root burger.
Must-see TV show(s):South Park, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black
Something most people don’t know about you: I am shy and introverted, not stuck up and misanthropic :)
Place in the world you’d most like to visit: That I haven't yet? Tokyo.
Pre-show warm-up: Red Bull energy drink and Plants vs. Zombies. Some stretching.
Favorite part about your current role: I get to be a giant Bane turkey!
Most challenging part about your current role: My little turklets I share every scene with are way better than I am. They are greatness in little turkey costumes.
Most embarrassing onstage mishap: My pants ripped out of nowhere once. At a really bad time.
Career you’d have if you weren’t a performer: If it could be anything? Fighter pilot. If not, probably a martial arts instructor.
Favorite post-show spot: Trinity Hall. I do like home a whole lot though.
Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: Everything I love is here, except my grandmother. Hoping that changes.
Most memorable theater moment: There was a moment where I realized I truly loved something, and the entire world looked different to me immediately. I was excited about the future and being here. Then it happened over and over again. Now I'm trying to pass it on to kids.
Jeff Swearingen's Ultimate Thanksgiving Experience plays at Fun House Theatre and Film November 20-24.