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Drama Professor Turns Inspiring Trip to Spanish Palace into New Play

Alhambra

Alhambra, which is based on drama professor Fred Curchack's recent adventures through Spain, incorporates video and shadow magic as well as rap. The play premieres Thursday.

Last May, drama professor Fred Curchack embarked on a dream vacation through Spain with his wife and two friends. When they visited a beautiful palace, inspiration struck the internationally acclaimed actor and playwright. 

The building — The Alhambra — is a massive Moorish fortress sitting atop a hill in the south of Spain that gave Curchack the setting for his new play, which will make its premiere Thursday at University Theatre.

“I had never considered writing a play about Spain, but when we finally visited this sublime palace, I was hit with a lightning bolt,” Curchack said. 

He transformed that inspiration into a new work juxtaposing Spain’s most brutal histories, such as the Spanish Inquisition and the Spanish Civil War, with the bigotry and racism of contemporary times. “The play is also very funny,” he said.  

Curchack was particularly drawn to the history of persecution in late 15th-century Spain. For instance, the Alhambra Decree of 1492 exiled Jews from Spain and, soon thereafter, Muslims and the Romani as well. 

“Spanish tour guides always talk about ‘Convivencia,’ a period during the 800 years of Muslim rule when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in harmony,” he said. His research revealed that this period is actually a topic of debate for historians, with many unaware of the darker details of this time.

'Alhambra'

When: March 30-April 1 and April 6-8. (8 p.m. each night)
Where: University Theatre
Tickets: $15 each (admission is free with a valid Comet Card). Admission is free for everyone for Thursday performances.

Curchack said he saw parallels between this conflicting account of Spain’s history and contemporary social issues of racial, religious and gender intolerance in the United States. 

When Curchack returned home, he read 40 books about Spain and spent eight months writing the play and assembling the video for it.  

“It wasn’t only politics that inspired the work,” he said. “I found the majestic achievements of Spanish art, architecture, poetry, music, dance and spirituality profoundly inspiring.” 

Alhambra, which Curchack said is freely based on his recent adventures through Spain, will run from March 30 to April 1 and April 6-8 with performances starting at 8 p.m.

The play will incorporate video and shadow magic developed by Curchack, as well as rap.

“The collision of live performance and video is incredible fun,” he said. “Rap is intense social protest, and I love that as well as the incredible challenges it presents in writing and performing.”

Student actors taking the Theater/Performance Ensemble course were cast in the play and provided Curchack with a great deal of input.

“Some of the students are professional actors; some are relatively new to theater,” he said. “They have all contributed brilliant ideas, improvisations, and inventions that keep me laughing and crying as I watch their beautiful work.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

Tagged: A&H