Bhargav Arimilli
Life & Arts Editor

‘Alhambra’ inspired by centuries of religious co-existence in medieval Spain

The UTD Theatre premiered a play on April 6 written and produced by a professor in the Arts and Humanities department.

“Alhambra,” written by Fred Curchack, follows the journey of two couples as they travel through Spain and explore Muslim, Christian and Jewish co-existence in the country’s history.

Curchack said he was inspired to write the play after visiting the Alhambra, a fortress in Spain built by Moorish rulers in the 13th century. For Curchack, the Alhambra stands as a testament to peace, but also serves as a reminder of tragedies such as the Alhambra Decree, which ordered the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain in 1492.

“This notion of harmonious blending of influences from these various religions was very touching to me,” he said. “Art itself is one answer to the level of hatred and distrust and bigotry … that leads to things like the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain. That leads to extremely problematic contemporary things, as well.”

Following his trip, Curchack spent eight months researching the Alhambra’s history and writing his play. One challenge that he faced during the writing process was condensing the information he learned into something understandable for audiences.

“I didn’t want it to be like a boring lesson of history and art,” Curchack said. “I wanted it to have a dramatic force.”

He also grappled with finding humor in the subject matter of “Alhambra,” he said.

“How to find comedy in the midst of such dark things such as the Spanish Inquisition or the Spanish Civil War (was) a central challenge,” he said. “Truly, truly dark periods of human history.”

As a part of his vision to blend comedy and tragedy, Curchack created a video and wrote a rap that was included in the theatrical performance.

“I have been incorporating, on occasion, video and rap into my plays for decades,” he said. “It’s a continuation of an artistic inclination and interest that I’ve had for a very long time.”

Curchack said he hoped the audience would leave with a reminder that history tends to repeat itself.

“(The Alhambra) is both a symbol of the sublime but also something quite horrible,” he said. “It would be a worthwhile mirror for the audience to ponder.”