Meet David Sweeny
We are super psyched that David Sweeny, Philadelphia actor/performer, is hosting our first Slam at World Cafe Live (THIS Monday). I first met David in 2007, when we worked together on Adrienne Mackey’s Fringe piece, Echo. Currently, he is in the Arden’s production of Peter Pan as the pirate Smee.
David is most well-known around town for his character Johnny Showcase, of the the Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret. You can see them live on January 20th, downstairs at World Cafe Live. David assures us it will be the concert of the year!
In anticipation of his gig on Monday night, I asked David a few questions about storytelling, Johnny and his own Home for the Holidays story. And remember, the first Slam of the year is Monday, January 11th at World Cafe Live. More info can be found HERE.
What do you think makes for a good story?
I think specificity, heart, and a willingness to laugh at yourself are all part of a good story. Unrequited love and unfulfilled expectations are always great as well…
Do you have a good “home for the holidays” story?
My first Christmas at my fiance (now wife)’s family’s home comes to mind. We had just become engaged, and there was an excitement in the air and an incredible graciousness on all sides. I was feeling homesick for my first Christmas away from my family, and every attempt was made to make me feel at home.
My wife’s brother, fifteen years old, a sweet kid, the kind of kid that still takes dance class with eleven year olds, and still has a food palette limited to pizza and bagels, was very excited to share his room with me. I was given the bed, as guests of honor tend to do, and he was to stay on the floor in a sleeping bag.
Bedtime, however, was not sleep time, but sleepover time. Her brother proceeded to show me all of the schedules that he had created for his own version of Hogwarts School of Magic, complete with class by class breakdown and list of students that was comprised of friends from church and dance class. I could actually follow his friend Allie from Defense Against the Dark Arts to Spells to Magic History. No detail was neglected, as to leave any magic student to wander the halls. I sat trapped in his twin bed, looking over his shoulder at his database of magical metriculation. He then put on a greatest hits sampling of all his favorite parts of the Harry Potter soundtrack, demonstrating all the dances that he had choreographed to the music. The dancing lasted about 20 minutes. Three years later, I am certain he still does those dances.
Tell me about Johnny Showcase. Who is he? What was the inspiration for him?
Johnny Showcase is a top-shelf crooner from North Providence, Rhode Island. The character was born when my mother suggested that I find something to fall back on if my acting career doesn’t take off. I said, in a snotty teenager voice, “Maybe I’ll just be a loungesinger.”
In a way, it did happen like that. I wasn’t getting too much acting work, and I wanted to find a way to put myself and the extraordinary people around me on stage. I was always jealous of my musician friends and their ability to just play and create whatever and whenever they like. So that is what spawned the cabaret. Gradually, the world got bigger with other characters and a more stylized sound.
Johnny is inspired by a melange of people. Originally Andy Kaufman and Bill Murray inspired me to have a lounge singer alter ego, as well as an homage to my home state of Rhode Island. Soon I realized I could use him as a vehicle to write music, and I became much more influenced by Prince and James Brown, and the out-ness of Funkadelic, Gary Wilson and Beck. Johnny Showcase gives me an opportunity to make great music and to do stuff that makes me (and hopefully others) laugh.
What would Johnny’s “home for the holidays” story be?
Johnny, a recent divorcee, goes home to the Ciacassi home in N. Providence. His parents still buy him and his brother Bobby matching pajamas, and his mother guilts him about “that pervert play” he does in Philadelphia. His father, a former city council man, shows old movies from when little Johnny would sing jingles for his campaign.