Fred Curchack dodges labels. Is the 71-year-old Dallas theater professor an actor, playwright, musician or performance artist? He’s all of them and something else, too: his own man.
While he has directed and appeared in other people’s work, Curchack earned the moniker “true renaissance theater artist” — an honor bestowed on him in 2010 by the Dallas Theater Critics Forum — because he has concentrated on writing and performing his own category-defying material.
Excerpts from seven of the 78 pieces he has created and toured around the world since graduating from college in the late 1960s will be featured next weekend in Retrospecting in the intimate basement space at Theatre Three. It co-stars the actress Laura Jorgensen, his partner.
“My stage work has grown out of my work on myself,” Curchack says in a phone interview from the couple’s second home in Northern California, where the look back will be reprised for two nights in May. “Stanislavski and Method acting come from the same place.”
His use of puppets, shadow play and other forms of stage magic, including a quiet, compelling charisma, inform his search for meaning on stage and off. To that end, Curchack trained in an array of cultural practices, from Indian Kathakali and Balinese Topeng dance to Japanese Noh musical drama.
He studied choreography with modern dance pioneer Alwin Nikolais, and theater with Jerzy Grotowski, the groundbreaking Polish director and theorist.
Curchack’s work may be personal — a third of the pieces in his repertoire are solos — but they’re not always autobiographical, he says. He has performed across the country, from the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival to East Dallas’ Bath House Cultural Center.