Dallas — Local actor Dustin Curry brings a new interpretation on an Ozark folktale with Fiddler’s Cave, premiering at the Festival of Independent Theatres this week under the banner Dustin Curry and Friends. Curry is an Arkansas native who aims to bring a little piece of home to Dallas. He refers to this performance as wordless storytelling, with elements of clowning.
TheaterJones: I’m from Arkansas as well. Do you ever miss living there or think about moving back?
Dustin Curry: I didn’t realize how much I loved the Ozarks until I got away from it and moved into the big city. I felt nostalgia about it and that’s where this show came from.
How did you end up in Dallas?
My professor in college named Dell—who has been one of my biggest influences—said, “You don’t seem to have your mind set on New York yet and you’re sure as hell not going to go home. So let’s try Dallas.”
I fell in love with it. I’ve been here a little over three years. I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. Even my first one-man show I wanted to take it back to Arkansas. Before this show has opened, friends and family back home have been telling me to bring it back to Arkansas. I hope it eventually does become something I can make into a mini tour. My attitude was to never go home, but now I think maybe I can bring home with me.
Have you ever done a solo piece before? How did you get into that kind of performance work?
I went to school at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. I got a great education there. And in my freshman year there I wrote a one-man show for the Kansas City Fringe Festival. I just sort of did on my own because no one was telling me “no.” I got to do it again for the Oklahoma Shakes Festival.
I’m very slow when it comes to coming up with new ideas. About a year ago after seeing last year’s FIT, I just started developing Fiddler’s Cave.
Ttalk about the inspiration of Fiddler’s Cave?
It is based on a collection of stories. If you really do the research, there’s a guy named Vance Randolph who collected all of these Ozark folktales. Randolph didn’t write or create these, they were passed down as oral tradition of Ozark folk tales. I started reading through his books. Each of these stories are only a page long, if that. They’re like Jack tales and I found one called “Fiddler’s Cave.” This one in particular has its roots from Ireland. It’s not a direct adaptation but Randolph’s written version is a starting point.
So the story that I put on stage is not even the folktale, it’s my interpretation that honors that tale.
How are you presenting this tale as a primarily solo show?
It’s entirely wordless. I’m not doing mime and I hate to classify it as clown, but I call it “wordless storytelling” because it doesn’t have to always be funny.
So how is your approach different than doing a typical solo performance with spoken text?
B.J. Cleveland, my director, and I have been focusing on not doing “clown for the sake of clown.” It’s never presentational, but clowning is used as a storytelling element. It’s not about being vaudeville, it’s about conveying the story. B.J. says that the funny thing is that when the audience sees how spooky it is at the beginning, it will be surprising that it’s a clown show. It starts out spooky because it’s in a cave.
When I’m creating a show like this I always start with the theme, emotion, or feel I want to convey. I knew I wanted to do something that was nostalgic for me and that had the feel of living in the Ozarks. I started looking for inspiration for that feeling in these stories. And from there I brought in a whole lot of clown bits, so I have a repertoire of stuff that I’m bringing to Dallas for the first time. And I have new stuff that I’m creating for this story.
How did you get interested in clown work? What’s your background in that particular style of performance?
There are not a whole lot of training centers for clowns. And in Arkansas, there’s really not a lot at all. So, growing up I’d watch Red Skelton and Chaplin. In high school, I got to go to state, national, and international thespian festivals and they had mime and clown training. Through that, I discovered “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
I just love that form of storytelling. After that I discovered Bill Irwin through PBS, [and] that sealed the deal. He demonstrated that you can be a great actor and a clown. And this world opened up.
The definition I like to give on clowning is: “If an actor is someone who holds a mirror to the human condition, a clown holds a funhouse mirror to the human condition.”
Fiddler's Cave opens at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 22, followed in the same performance block by Tommy Cain from L.I.P. Service.
Fiddler's Cave is performed in the following blocks:
- 8 p.m. Saturday, July 22
- 5 p.m. Sunday, July 23
- 8 p.m. Saturday, July 29
- 2 p.m. Sunday, July 30
- 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3
- 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5
See more info about the 2017 Festival of Independent Theatres schedule here.