Thursday, January 29, 2009

PENS & STRINGS premieres in Austin

For playwrights and childhood buddies Jeff Hernandez and Brad McEntire PENS AND; STRINGS marks their first collaboration together on a written piece for the stage. Drawing on an original idea by Hernandez and a smattering of the life experiences of both writers, the one-act became a funny, intimate exploration of one character's real and imagined relationships with two immediate women in his life... the ex-girlfriend of his recent past and the attractive waitress right in front of him.

Director Ruth Engel, a veteran of staging the works of McEntire and a friend of both playwrights assembled a small cast of talented actors - including Rasa Hollender, Angela Parsons and Oscar Contreras - to tackle the meta-theatrical piece. It was presented on January 16th at Austin's Hyde Park Theatre as part of the 2009 FronteraFest.

Despite some last minute worry that the piece would be under-rehearsed, it went over very well and the audience response was great.

To see a video of the performance click here...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

HHF: notes on the play and playwright

About the Play
Commissioned by Audacity Theatre Lab's Artistic Director Brad McEntire from Matt Lyle in the summer of 2008. Matt Lyle's HELLO HUMAN FEMALE was the first full-length work recieving a World-Premiere he himself has not directed.

Audacity was thrilled to collaborate with Lyle and play in his twisted, sweet, comic little world.

About the Playwright
Originally from East Texas, Matt Lyle is a Summa Cum Laude graduate and winner of the Outstanding Theatre Graduate Award from Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre. In 2004, he co-founded Bootstraps Comedy Theater in Dallas, Texas for which he serves at Artistic Director. In 2007, The Dallas Observer named Bootstraps as Best Small Theater Company and Matt as Best New Playwright. He worked with several theaters in the DFW area as both actor and director prior to his relocation with his wife, Kim, to Chicago in 2008. 

Matt has recently completed the Writing Program at Second City. In the Fall of 2009, Matt will direct ALMOST, MAINE for Chicago's Apple Tree Theater and return to Dallas as a Artist-In-Residence to direct THE BOXER at Collin Theatre Center. This marks Matt Lyle's first commission from Audacity Theatre Lab.

Swearingen warms up in HAMLET before taking on Blork in HELLO HUMAN FEMALE

Actor tackles Hamlet in concurrent Hub Theater shows

Thursday, January 22, 2009
By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News

Clowns, they say, always yearn to play Hamlet. Jeff Swearingen says he never did – yet he's playing the Prince of Denmark in not just one play but two. Simultaneously.

Actor Jeff Swearingen is tackling two Hamlet roles simultaneously for Dallas Hub Theater in Deep Ellum. Tonight, Dallas Hub Theater in Deep Ellum opens Shakespeare's Hamlet and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in adjoining spaces. Stoppard's philosophical comedy speculates on what happens to the bit players in Hamlet when they're not onstage. As far as anyone at Hub can tell, this is the first time a theater has tried mounting both plays at the same time – with a single cast.

Thus Swearingen plays Hamlet in both shows. Although he's done Shakespearean parodies and played Malcolm in a locally filmed movie of Macbeth, he has never been in a stage production of the Bard before. Talk about starting at the top: The title role in Hamlet is generally considered the longest and most challenging ever written for an actor.

And, remember, he has to go onstage in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern during the brief moments he leaves the stage in Hamlet.

"If you get me on a positive day, I'll say it's barely possible," he says of the challenge. "It's hair-trigger. When I kill Polonius, I lug his body offstage and go right into the action of Rosencrantz talking about it. There are times I really want a stage manager to tell me I'm in the right show."

Swearingen, 30, made his reputation in comedy. His 2007 dual best actor award from the Dallas Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum was for two shows in which he never spoke a word but got plenty of laughs: The Boxer at Bootstraps Comedy Theater and The Gnadiges Fraulein at WingSpan Theatre Company. Swearingen has done comedy improv in spots as far-flung as Hong Kong, and he has performed the brilliant one-man play The Last Castrato in seven venues stretching from New York's Fringe Festival to Phoenix.

In North Texas, Swearingen's home companies have been Plano Children's Theatre (recently reorganized as Plano Community Theatre) and Audacity Theatre Lab, though he has performed on many area stages. For Shane-Arts, the organization that runs Hub, he has done everything from mystery dinner theater to singing telegrams.

"My telegram character is so weird that the directions he can go are endless. I can make some kid's birthday, or rock out a sorority party at SMU," Swearingen says. "A lot of people think they're better than that, but I don't."

Swearingen got interested in acting when he finally realized that "Han Solo and Indiana Jones are the same guy. I thought, 'Hey, that's a job or something.' "

But he got no family encouragement to do theater. Only 5-foot-6, though he looks larger onstage, he instead took up martial arts when he was 12. The athletic grace and manic energy of his athletic past certainly transfer to his acting career.

"Kung fu is good training for comedy," Swearingen says. "It's all about timing and improvisation."

Tim Shane, one of the co-directors of the Hub double bill, notes how useful those qualities are for playing Hamlet.

"His ability to connect with an audience makes these plays immediately accessible," Shane says.

When Swearingen heard about the impending Hub project, he thought it was a great idea but doubted he was the right man for the lead part. It was only in a fall Labyrinth Theatre production of I Hate Hamlet, ironically, that he caught the Hamlet bug.

He doesn't want his performance of the great role to be remembered for some singular quality, to be the angry Hamlet or the poetic Hamlet or the graceful Hamlet.

"The violence the character expresses is ferocious, and depression and despair have their place. He's funny, he's intelligent, he's sensitive, he's charming. He's everything. Some people anchor themselves in one of these, but you should be seeing all these aspects of a noble prince," Swearingen says. "I was never one of those Hamlet guys, but now I understand how genius it really is."Plan your life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

HELLO HUMAN FEMALE playwright Matt Lyle and his lovely wife Kim do a little spot for the new online theatreblog

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Director Ruth Engel gives the cast notes.

PENS AND STRINGS is in rehearsals. If you're in the Austin area, don't forget to come out and see the show. Plays 7 PM January 16th at the Hyde Park Theatre (43rd at Guadalupe) as part of the 16th Annual FronteraFest.

After a cast change (these things happen... Jamie Marchi and Audacity parted ways while the excellent Ms. Angela Parsons stepped in to play a bit). The creative team has been hard at work at ATL's luxurious rehearsal studios (i.e. Ruth's apartment) and can't wait to present this short one-act about a writer with ideas... who have ideas of their own.

Monday, January 5, 2009

From the Arts Blog at

Jeff Swearingen as Blork in the upcoming HELLO HUMAN FEMALE

Audacity to produce new Matt Lyle comedy
5:06 PM Fri, Jan 02, 2009
Lawson Taitte
Audacity Theatre Lab announced that it is producing a new script by Matt Lyle (the former Dallasite who founded Bootstraps Comedy Theater), Hello Human Female. It will go up at the new Exposition Park space Ochre House on Feb. 18.

Audacity also plans to mount a different original script (written in-house) at Austin's Frontera Fest in the spring and has a lot of other irons in the fire.

To view the Arts Blog at click here.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Jeff Swearingen on a 2008 Top Ten List

Jeff Swearingen in LULLABY with Tyson Rinehart and Paula Wood
"5) Jeff Swearingen’s multiple performances. For a while it seemed that every other show I went to review he was acting in and, yes, he also appeared in I Hate Hamlet. If I had to pick out his best work it would be in the play The Most Beautiful Lullaby You’ve Ever Heard at Audacity Theatre Lab. ...His performance kept me riveted."
~ From MBS Productions’ top moments of
DFW theater, opera and dance in 2008
by Mark-Brian Sonna on
(Saturday, December 27, 2008)