Dallas — Plano-based Fun House Theatre and Film needs no introduction for anyone who's been reading about the DFW theater scene in the past five years. The youth theater, run by Artistic Director Jeff Swearingen and Producer Bren Rapp (who, for disclosure, is also the director of marketing and sales for TheaterJones), has a fine collection of original works, most of them parodies and/or satire. So a political season in 2016 made sense. For Fun House's first entry in the Festival of Independent Theatres, they have turned Charlie Varon's award-winning one-man play Rush Limbaugh in Night School into a multiple-actor piece, with Alex Duva playing Limbaugh. Duva has taken on a number of roles at Fun House, perhaps most memorably as the bully Stanley in last year's A School Bus Named Desire. TheaterJones talked to both Duva and Swearingen about this show, which is the first production of this year's FIT, premiering at 8 p.m. Friday, July 8.
TheaterJones: Alex, what kind of research have you done on Rush Limbaugh?
Alex Duva: Jeff had me listen to him a lot. A lot. On the radio, on podcasts, on YouTube doing his talk show in the 1990s. I've also done some Internet research on his bio, but I haven't read his books, except for part of his first Rush Revere book. He has a very good radio voice. The tone is easy to listen to, almost soothing and he varies his tempo to not make it boring. In contrast, I've also listened to Mark Levin and Bill O'Reilly, who are angry, fast talkers and are stressful to listen to. I can definitely hear the difference and why Rush became so popular
What about working with Jeff and Fun House has prepared you for this role?
A.D.: Jeff and Bren [Rapp] have an approach at Fun House that prepares us both short term for our individual roles but also long term for future roles. It seems like each role I've had was right at the time and all the previous roles have prepared me for my next role. I played Bill O'Reilly three years ago, which is great preparation for Rush, but also playing Stanley in A School Bus Named Desire, Mr. Reynolds in Mortgage, and even Tyrese Cannister in Game of Thrones, Jr. have added characteristics and aspects to my current role.
Aside from this, what has been your favorite role at Fun House and why?
A.D.: It is way too hard to just pick one. I have been at it for five years with Fun House. That is a whole lot of memorable roles, especially the ones Jeff has created.
Jeff, you wanted a political season this year. Why this title?
Jeff Swearingen: Actually, my partner and producer, Bren Rapp picked this show and programmed the entire season. She came up with the idea for our political season centered around the upcoming election. When researching works and coming across Rush Limbaugh in Night School, she felt we had the perfect kid to take on the challenge of playing of Rush Limbaugh, Alex Duva. It immediately became a project we wanted to produce for him, as many of the shows we have done over years are fueled by finding challenges for specific young actors in our program. It is one of the things that makes Fun House different from many youth programs out there. We search for vehicles for particular kids as we work to help them develop their skills. Also it fits our preferred model of satire in that it pokes fun at everyone, not just the left or the right or one group over another.
What makes casting this show with youth actors different from how it might come across with adults?
J.S.: I actually think it is more fun and the comedy is heightened since kids are performing are it. It adds that layer of adults watching being able to laugh at themselves seeing kids “behave” as adults, identifying themselves in the characters the kids are performing. I also think by casting all boys, we kept a lot of the original flavor of the piece, which was originally performed by the show’s author, Charlie Varon, as a one-man piece.
You've performed in FIT before, but have you directed/produced? What's different about the FIT experience this time?
J.S.: I have never directed or produced a show for FIT. I have performed for Bootstraps [Comedy Theater], Audacity [Theatre Lab] and Churchmouse [Productions] however. This might end up being my favorite experience as it is really something to pass down appearing in the festival to the kids. As I have told them, my FIT appearances, especially in [Matt Lyle’s] The Boxer, helped to build my career and I hope this show does the same for them. It is great opportunity for a wider range of audience to see what we do at Fun House and they are really excited about that.
» See more info about the 2016 Festival of Independent Theatres in our special section here, where you can also learn how to download our FIT app. In that app, you'll see a section for the playbills for each company, which includes cast, creative and director's notes.
Rush Limbaugh in Night School is performed in the following blocks:
- 8pm Friday, July 8
- 5pm Saturday, July 9
- 5pm Sunday, July 10
- 2pm Saturday, July 16
- 5pm Saturday, July 23
- 8pm Friday, July 29