“Art is a powerful tool for social change; performing is a responsibility with genuine impact that’s important for youth actors to experience as well as see as audience members.”
Jeff Swearingen, Artistic Director, Fun House Theatre and Film
The start of a new year finds many theatre companies across the region revving up to announce new seasons. Such is the case with Jeff Swearingen’s Fun House Theatre and Film, a regionally based, national leading-edge theatre company dedicated to producing dynamic theatre by youth (tween through teen). Fun House routinely leaps across conventional, traditional “youth theatre” boundaries without apology and succeeds in spades. Cutesy, banal, anthropomorphic furry forest creatures or enchanted “faux glamour” fairy godmothers almost never appear in their productions, unless a satirical point needs making. 2015 saw such works as David Mamet’s Speed-The-Plow, Sam Shepard’s True West, Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman and Swearingen’s original spoof adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire titled A Schoolbus Named Desire played to sellout crowds composed of as many adult as under age18 theatre patrons. How to up the game in 2016? For the first time FunHouse Theatre and Film presents a themed season of works, selected to complement the national election year.
POLITICS THROUGH THE PROSCENIUM
1) David Rabe’s Sticks and Bones. February 11-21, 2016
A powerful anti-war play, part of Rabe’s celebrated war trilogy that included Streamers, it won the 1972 Tony Award for Best Play. It’s a savagely comic portrait of an archetypal, middle class family, ironically named Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky. When David comes back from the Vietnam War blinded, furies haunt him. Wanting to return their son to normal, Ozzie and Harriet attempt their best parenting without beneficial results. Finally guitar-playing, fudge-eating Ricky saves the day and enlists the family in a tidy little atrocity all its own. A punchy parody of the ideal American family trying to deal with the Vietnam battlefield scars of its eldest son, Christopher Durang later parodied it, itself, in his play The Vietnamization of New Jersey. Set in the Vietnam War era, with contemporary resonance.
2) Charlie Varon’s Rush Limbaugh in Night School. March 11-13 (One Weekend Only)
An outrageously funny satire of the outspoken, rightwing talk show host, and the media. Radio personality Rush Limbaugh seems unstoppable. His daily audience has risen to six million listeners. But Rush’s manager, the fictional Barry Granatour, has disturbing news: Limbaugh faces a serious ratings battle with radio rival J. Neil Rodriguez, a Latino commentator. Granatour suggests Spanish lessons. Donning pseudonym and disguise, Rush attends language classes at the New School for Social Research in Greenwich Village, New York City. There he encounters, in the flesh, all the people he has enjoyed mocking on the air: feminists, leftists, and environmentalists. 12-year-old Alex Duva (a stand-out as Stanley Kowalski in A Schoolbus Named Desire) stars in his first solo show, c.45 minutes long. Paired with:
Babes in Electionland (Sketch Comedy)
A sketch comedy short about the current political climate during election year written by elementary school kids (10 and under) and performed verbatim by the teens of Unicorn Clearance with cameos from adult professionals, under Jeff Swearingen’s direction.
3) Jeff Swearingen’s Old McDonald’s Farm — A Children’s Fable about the Obama Presidency. June 17- 26
When Old McDonald turns the farm over to New McDonald, the daunting face of their new caretaker polarizes the animals of the barnyard….
“No play of our 2016 season draws conclusions for the audience or leads them to a particular outcome. No one agenda gets expressed. They all embody elements of dark satire.”
Bren Rapp, Founding Partner and President, Fun House Theatre and Film
4) Fun House Inaugural Artists’ Residency at The University of Texas at Dallas, featuring —
Bren Rapp and Jeff Swearingen’s The Not So Odd Couple. Early Summer TBD
A regional theatre director sets out to cast an upcoming production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple under the watchful eye of the theatre’s “socially conscious” artistic director. When does socially conscious best intentions get overtaken by the unpredictable unconscious and where do these urges lead? A dark satire examination of current hot button issues of political correctness in casting, the arts and society as a whole.
5) Wendy Weiner’s 2009 play Hillary, A Modern Greek Tragedy with a (Somewhat) Happy Ending. August 18-27
Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, and Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, have been at war, like forever. When a young girl named Hillary Rodham devotes herself to Athena alone, Aphrodite takes revenge by having her fall in love with a man of mythical charm and appetites: Bill Clinton. Do women really have to act like men to “get ahead” in a man’s world?
Director TBD, female preferred!
“Surprisingly—and eerily—the Greek-tragedy conceit works well with this epic figure…Weiner does an impressive job of mining the media detritus of the Clinton years—the stained dress, the Starr Report, Bill’s penchant for fast food—for the right materials to paint a portrait that is both loving and lacerating.” —The New Yorker. “The play merges elements of Greek tragedy (including a chorus) with real-life events to create a screwball version of recent history. It works remarkably well…It feels fresh at the same time that it feels like a flashback…the laughs come steadily.” —NY Times.
6) The Manchurian Candidate
John Lahr’s adaptation of the 1959 Richard Conden novel. October 23-Nov. 6
Roger Ebert says, “The Manchurian Candidate feels astonishingly contemporary; its astringent political satire still bites, and its story has uncanny contemporary echoes. The villains plan to exploit a terrorist act, “rallying a nation of viewers to hysteria, to sweep us up into the White House with powers that will make martial law seem like anarchy.” The plot cheerfully divides blame between right and left….”
What is involved? An assassination plot against the president, a weak vice-president, threat of nuclear war, espionage, intrigue, incest, the election process and the likelihood of a right wing takeover of the United States. Leave it to FunHouse to explore its darker aspects in depth, in a classic film noir manner.
7) Jeff Swearingen’s Ultimate Holiday Experience aka The Night Dan Quayle Saved Christmas. December 2-11
The original Fun House cult classic criticalrant named as the “most entertaining show of 2011”, it plays to packed houses every holiday season it’s mounted and leaves no politician un-slandered and/or un-satirized, of any persuasion, gender or country of origin: https://criticalrant.com/2011/12/16/raise-your-glasnost-fun-house-theatres-ultimate-holiday-experience/
Photos provided by Fun House Theatre and Film
For further information on the Fun House Theatre and Film season or to interview directors and company members, contact: www.funhousetheatreandfilm.com