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DFW actor/director to watch 2014: Jeff Swearingen

Posted 5:54pm on Wednesday, Jan. 08, 2014

Editor’s note: As much as we wish there were a fully functioning crystal ball in the DFW.com offices, there is no such apparatus.

But that won’t keep us from casting our gaze forward and forecasting who and what will capture our imaginations this year: a wonderful and weird artist who is finally getting his due, a young pastry chef whose sweet creations could become the talk of the town, a fresh-faced newsman, an inspiring actor (see below), a hip-hop queen in waiting, even a surprising drink that could propel the next craft craze.

Those are a just few of the stars we’ve got our eyes on for 2014.

The actor/director: Jeff Swearingen

Originally from: Montana, but grew up in Garland, Plano and Richardson. He went to high school at Richardson’s J.J. Pearce High School.

Current hometown: Dallas

Where you might have seen his work already: Swearingen has been an actor in North Texas for a good decade, appearing on stages from Theatre Arlington to WaterTower Theatre to Theatre Three, winning critical acclaim for his physical comedy. In 2011, along with Bren Rapp, he co-founded a youth theater called Fun House Theatre and Film, based in Plano. The big difference between Fun House and other youth theaters is that they take on tough drama and comedy, having done respectable productions of Hamlet and Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, along with original comedies and parodies, such as Swearingen’s three “Ultimate” holiday shows (for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter) that combine ’80s Cold War politics with beloved holiday characters.

Why he’ll be a big deal in 2014: Last year saw a breakout show for Fun House, a genius take on David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross called Daffodil Girls, in which a girls’ scouting troop vies for real estate to sell their cookies. The show won multiple critics’ awards, and will be revisited this year at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park. Other shows planned for 2014 include a youth version of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and there’s now no reason to doubt that he can pull this off with young actors.

What’s his deal? Teaching youth actors multiple styles, improvisation and language skills, even for work considered above their age range, is paying off. The kids are learning valuable skills to prepare them for a career of performance.

Signature style: As an actor, a rubbery physicality and dead-on comic timing has been his calling card. He’s also an expert in improv comedy; catch him in the local improvisation troupe The Victims.

Fun fact: Swearingen learned how to control his body by studying martial arts at an early age. He was especially proficient at kung fu, and participated in the national Chinese kickboxing circuit as a teenager and in his early 20s, making alternate on the U.S. team for his weight class. As for the comedy skills, a longtime love of comic books was an important influence.

Where can you see his work? Swearingen stars in the one-man show The Last Castrato, opening Tuesday at the Margo Jones Theatre, presented by Audacity Theatre Lab. Get info at www.audacitytheatrelab.com; keep up with Fun House happenings at www.funhousetheatreandfilm.com.

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