Election watch: Vote Ubu Roi at University Center for the Arts

WARNING: THE THEATRE PRODUCTION OF UBU ROI IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR ALL AGES. The play contains strong sexual content, adult situations, and nudity. The show utilizes water/fluid effects that may get on audience members; please wear machine-washable clothing. Strobe lights, theatrical smoke and haze affects, and loud noises are also used in this production. Not often produced outside of collegiate theatre, the avant-garde play is an allegory about the abuses of the wealthy. Filled with scatological humor and physical inanity, Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry caused a riot when it first premiered in 1896. Banned in France for decades, the vulgar and wacky show is both relevant and controversial, with parallels to the current political environment. Think Monty Python meets South Park meets the 2016 Presidential Election meets nothing like you’ve ever experienced before.

Story by Lauren Scott

ubuIf you did not know by this point, we are in the midst of a major election season – a season fueled by high emotions, finger-pointing and name-calling. As election day draws closer, we are more overwhelmed by the candidates’ intensity and find ourselves in an internal struggle over who will get our vote come Nov. 8. But don’t fret if you’re still unsure, there is another candidate who just entered the race – Ubu Roi.

Who is Ubu Roi?

Translated as “King Ubu,” Pa Ubu is just that – a power-hungry dictator hailing from Poland, ready to rule everyone and anything he can get his hands on. Having recently defeated the prior leader, King Wenceslas, in a fierce battle, Pa Ubu becomes entranced in a state of power and control. In this state, he shows himself as a true tyrant, murdering all who disobey or disagree with him, including aristocrats, judges and the middle class. To further raise the pedestal he places himself on, he extorts triple taxes on the peasants – the only class left to be ruled. Naturally, the peasants are not too thrilled about this treatment and revolt.

I know what you must be thinking – why would I ever want someone like Pa Ubu as a leader? Well, we cannot forget the better halves of each presidential candidate – their spouses. I’m not sure “better” best describes Ma Ubu, wife of Pa Ubu, but she definitely has her own agenda and is watching her husband’s every move. Nevertheless, as Director Nick Taylor explains, Ma and Pa Ubu are “the epitome of the social climbers, the 1 percenters.” Their whole aura mimics that of “several prominent political figures,” Taylor continues, “reminding us of what kind of circus the ruling class can be.”

However, just as with the current election, there are many players in this tale. Take Sexcrement, a captain; Crotch, Pile and Cootie, followers of Sexcrement and Pa Ubu; the armies of both Poland and Russia; and many more. Lucky for you, you can see them all at an upcoming “rally” depicting how Pa Ubu would befit the position of president.

The performance

Taylor, from the Community College of Denver, leads Ubu Roi. Taylor was drawn to the piece due to similarities between himself and playwright Alfred Jarry.

Colorado State University's Production of Ubu Roi“He was kind of a troublemaker,” Taylor says. “I like questions more than answers, and don’t mind parodying and exploring the human condition to better understand the world around me.”

And what a dizzying parody of this election season this is! For instance, the two major set pieces are large trampolines. Thought up by the creative minds of costume designer Abby Jordan, lighting designer David Van Name, scenic designer Roger Hanna and Taylor, the use of trampolines helps elevate the absurdist approach of the piece.

All in all, expect to feel uneasy and uncomfortable, yet drawn to certain connections between the stakes apparent in the show and our current election cycle. Perhaps Taylor puts it best. He said they want to “force the audience to make decisive, even violent decisions about what to watch.”

You do not want to miss CSU Theatre’s “rally” for Ubu Roi, which will be held in the University Center for the Arts’ Studio Theater. Be forewarned that harsh language, crude images and many sexual references are to be expected. Since Ubu Roi understands the importance of knowledge for voters, there will be multiple showings for audiences to enjoy. Nightly showings take place at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22, and matinee showings will be held at 2 p.m. on Oct. 16 and 23.

Ticket information

Tickets are free for CSU students with ID, and $18 for the general public. Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts ticket office in the UCA lobby Monday through Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 60 minutes prior to performances; by phone at (970) 491-ARTS (2787), or online at CSUArtsTickets.com. Youth tickets must be purchased in person at the ticket office. All tickets are subject to a $1 fee for both online and at-the-door purchases. Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended to avoid lines and further at-the-door fees.

CSU University Communications Staff