Grandpa’s Home Videos: The Dalai Lama’s Pyjamas

So often stage productions that incorporate elements of video do so in a manner that fails both media. The film aspect feels tacked on as additional exposition (distracting and boring) or as gratuitous, self-congratulatory tech expertise (“See, we can use a camera!”). It interferes with the play’s plot and character development to the point that any suspension of disbelief to accept onstage “reality” evaporates while the perceived chasm between stage and film art expands. Never the twain….

Then there is Fred Curchack’s newest opus, Grandpa’s Home Videos, presented by the Video Association of Dallas. Curchack is a superior stage actor, through and through. He understands the power of gesture, the balance between expressive thought and orchestrated emotion, his audience’s need to focus close for intimate experience, then to back away to regroup and gain contextual perspective. A classical bricoleur, he also has a rare talent for integration: synthesizing disparate elements into a cohesive whole.

With Grandpa’s Home Videos, Curchack skillfully incorporates his multiplicity of talents. His smooth blend of interactive folksy ‘home video’ footage, philosophical interaction with the on film characters (or his perceptions of them), whimsical poetry and song as thematic illustration and simple inner reflection furthers the no intermission performance rather than impedes it. One production element cannot flourish without the others. Five ‘actors’ vibrantly recounting the tale, with only one in the flesh, people the  “stage” for the audience’s senses with elegant clarity. In short, a charming, well-integrated media merger. It’s a joy to view.

Don’t be fooled by the folksy title or the performance’s casual unfolding. Nothing “down home’ about it. Every moment of this opus is crisply orchestrated for desired effect and succeeds due to Curchack’s creative vision, stage acumen and the ten plus ‘video gurus’ who worked with him on the project. The show features: Grandpa Fred, himself (as both adult and child in early home movie clips); comic diva Laura Jorgensen, playing herself, Fred’s mother (in an intentionally silly white wig) and voicing baby grand-daughter Miela; Fred’s daughter Alia Curchack-Beeton as herself (with angelic singing voice); and Fred’s distinguished mother Norma rounding out the multi-generational aspect, grounding the enterprise with dignitas. My favorite moment? If I had to choose one, it might be the well-harmonized love duet between Fred on guitar and Laura on screen. For a moment, I forgot he was on stage and she was on film; they transcended media constraint, entirely present in performance together, heart, mind and spirit. Isn’t that what media integration should accomplish?

Grandpa’s Home Videos performs 3/25 and 3/26 with “4 generations of video goddesses” at the Bath House Cultural Center. There’s nothing else quite like it on the regional boards.

972-740-2769 for tickets.

Photo #1: Fred Curchack and Miela Curchack-Beeton

Photo # 2: Miela, Fred and Laura Jorgensen

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