Dallas — Performance artist, writer, musician and teacher Fred Curchack has been plying his trade in North Texas for nearly 30 years, with side seminar gigs and workshops conducted across three continents. He’s written and performed 78 theater works, including many one-man shows incorporating his trademark shadow art, mime moves, and multiple personas. He has influenced literally hundreds of performers in his classes at The University of Texas at Dallas, where he has been teaching for 30 years.
He recently talked with TheaterJones about his solo Concert of New Songs at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 26 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, and his one-nighter jamming with two other UTD profs, Scot Gresham-Lancaster and Dean Terry. Titled Shenanigans, Obfuscations, and Interruptions, that concert is set for 8 p.m. Friday, April 24 at Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park.
TheaterJones: The ad for your show indicates you’ve written all original new songs in the show. Is this a premiere?
Fred Curchack: I wrote 11 new songs last summer, and I’ve done the show twice in California. I plan to record the show at CTD, and will be performing at a couple of East Coast venues later on.
The show lists rock, country, jazz, rap and classical. Are your songs a kind of genre spoof of these styles?
Not really a spoof, but some are funny. I do a crazy rap tale bout a Tyrannosaurus masturbating, but that’s actually a way to shift perspective away from our human preoccupations and personalities.
Is there an overall theme to the songs?
The themes of the songs are the themes of my life. They reflect where I am now. The songs deal with loss and aging in some way. I’m 67 and think more about death, about the end of me. I always have been aware of my mortality, but as I get older, I see it closer. In some ways, all the songs are a rewrite of “Pirate Jenny” [Kurt Weill’s shatteringly dark song from The Threepenny Opera about the possibility of death at any moment]. My purpose is not social revolution, like Weill’s, but to ask us to look into ourselves to see what we want to overthrow. Are we really the personalities and bodies we identify with, or is there something more essential in life?
How is all this part of a “musical joyride,” as the flyer describes the show?
People like it. They laugh at all kinds of things. Other songs get a different response .You know me. I’m playing different characters in the songs. A veteran friend cried when I sang “G.I. Joe.” Another song, “Credo,” questions all kinds of beliefs, all the “isms” around us. As soon as you conceptualize something, you’re losing the directness of experience. I don’t pretend I can transcend my own personality, my own ego, but I am trying in these songs to get at that human effort.
Will you be playing several instruments?
Mostly I’m playing guitar, but I have pre-recorded harmony with my own voice and other instruments. Sections of the show have 25 layers of recording.
What’s on the program for the trio called Shenanigans, Obfuscations and Interruptions?
The other two professors are from UTD’s ATEC [Art Technology and Emerging Media Communications] school. They’re incredible professionals. Scot toured the world with a synthesizer ensemble. Dean plays all kinds of electric guitars and keyboards.
What’s your role in this trio?
I’m mostly doing vocals, but I have a gothic shadow show to accompany an excerpt from “The Mental Traveler” by [19th century visionary poet William] Blake. We’re also doing excerpts from Shakespeare, including the masque characters from The Tempest. We create a song setting to Shakespeare’s lines about music. I sing countertenor to “Full Fathom Five.”
What do you want the audience to take away from the concert?
I hope we’re opening some new perspectives on Blake and Shakespeare. We have magic, special effects, layers of rock and funk. The audience sees three radically different personalities and talents coming together and making harmony—and having fun. I hope that joy is contagious.