Cutting Ball Theater to Continue 15th Season with Alfred Jarry's UBO ROI, 1/24-2/23
Cutting Ball Theater continues its 15th season with Alfred Jarry's UBU ROI in a new translation by Rob Melrose. Russian director Yury Urnov (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company) helms this irreverent take on world leaders. Featuring David Sinaiko, Ponder Goddard, Marilet Martinez, Bill Boynton, Nathaniel Justiniano, and Andrew Quick, UBU ROI plays January 24 through February 23 (Press opening: January 30) at the Cutting Ball Theater in residence at EXIT on Taylor (277 Taylor Street) in San Francisco. For tickets ($10-50) and more information, the public may visit cuttingball.com or call 415-525-1205.
When Alfred Jarry's UBU ROI premiered in Paris on December 10, 1896, the audience broke into a riot at the utterance of its first word. Jarry's parody of Shakespeare's Macbeth defies theatrical tradition through its disregard for audience expectations, replacing Shakespeare's tragic hero with a greedy, sadistic ogre who becomes the King of Poland by force and through the debasement of his people. Set in a modern luxury kitchen, this re-visioned UBU ROI features a wealthy American couple who play out their fantasies of wealth and power to excess as they take on the roles of Mother and Father Ubu. Cutting Ball's version of UBU ROI may bring to mind the fall from grace of many a contemporary political leader corrupted by power, from Elliot Spitzer to Dominique Strauss-Kahn. UBU ROI was developed as part of the 2013 edition of RISK IS THIS... The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival.
"For me, UBU ROI is the reflection of Friedrich Nietzsche's Übermensch, an 'Over-man' or 'Super-man,' in Alfred Jarry's false mirror," said director Yury Urnov. "If it's true that Nietzsche was one of the founding-fathers of the fascist aesthetic, then Jarry's play can be perceived as the first anti-fascist work of art in which the author reveals the conflict between superhuman ambitions and the part of himself which is 'human, all too human.' I think of Alfred Jarry as the first realist, not just the first absurdist; I look forward to exploring his work in this context, and sharing this insightful and exciting new translation of his seminal play with the Cutting Ball's audience."
"In many ways UBU ROI is the beginning of avant garde theater," said Cutting Ball Artistic Director Rob Melrose. "It had its premiere at the Théâtre de l'Oeuvre in Paris in 1896 and the utterance of the first word 'Merdre' caused riots rivaled only by premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. For many years, productions tried to capture the shock of the first production - a very tall order that many would argue is impossible in today's world of South Park, performance art, and YouTube videos. UBU ROI has become a favorite of innovative auteur directors; the impossible epic, cartoon-like nature of the play makes it a delightful challenge for visionary directors. We are fortunate to have Yury Urnov, who grew up and trained in Russia, at the helm of Cutting Ball's production; his directing career includes many breathtakingly bold adaptations of classic works."
Continued Melrose, "In translating UBU ROI, my goal was to get back to some of Jarry's original impulses. What is wonderful about this play is that on one hand it is the lowest of low comedy - appealing to our most vile instincts. On the other hand, it was written by a precocious and misunderstood genius with the highest level of intellect and invention. What is unfortunate about this play is that given the state of governments and human nature, it is always a contemporary play, always relevant."
Director Yury Urnov makes his Cutting Ball debut with UBU ROI. Urnov recently started the American chapter of his career with the highly successful production of You for Me for You, spending the 2011-12 season as a Director-in-Residence at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC. Born in Moscow, Russia, Urnov graduated from the Russian Academy of Theater Art (GITIS) in 2000 and has directed over 40 productions in his home country, Europe, and Africa. He was one of the first to discover and direct plays by the first generation of post-Soviet playwrights, such as Maksym Kurochkin, Olga Mukhina, and Yury Klavdiev, who are now internationally recognized as the leaders of the New Russian Drama movement. In Russia, Urnov translated and directed the national premieres of Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone. Since 2002, he has worked closely with the Center for International Theater Development (directed by Philip Arnoult) on a number of international projects, including the 2009-2011 program New Russian Drama: Translation/Production/Conference, which brought over 20 contemporary Russian plays to America.
Rob Melrose is the Artistic Director and co-founder of the Cutting Ball Theater and works nationally as a freelance director. He has directed at the Guthrie Theater (Happy Days, Pen, Julius Caesar - with The Acting Company); Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Troilus and Cressida - in association with The Public Theater), Magic Theatre (An Accident, World Premiere); PlayMakers Rep (Happy Days); California Shakespeare Theater (Villains, Fools, and Lovers); Black Box Theatre (The Creature, World Premiere); Actors' Collective (Hedda Gabler); The Gamm Theatre (Creditors); and Crowded Fire Theater (The Train Play), among others. Directing credits at Cutting Ball include the World Premiere of Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night; Strindberg Cycle: The Chamber Plays in Rep, Pelleas & Melisande, the Bay Area Premiere of Will Eno's Lady Grey (in ever lower light); The Tempest; The Bald Soprano; Victims of Duty; Bone to Pick and Diadem (World Premiere); Endgame; Krapp's Last Tape; The Taming of the Shrew; Macbeth; Hamletmachine; As You Like It; The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World; Mayakovsky: A Tragedy; My Head Was a Sledgehammer; Roberto Zucco; The Vomit Talk of Ghosts (World Premiere); The Sandalwood Box; Pickling; Ajax for Instance; Helen of Troy (World Premiere); and Drowning Room (World Premiere). He is a recipient of the NEA / TCG Career Development Program award for directors. Melrose has a B.A. in English and Theater from Princeton University and an M.F.A. in directing from the Yale School of Drama. He has taught at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, USF, the University of Rhode Island, and Marin Academy. In addition to UBU ROI, translations include No Exit, Woyzeck, Pelléas and Mélisande, and The Bald Soprano; he recently translated Eugène Ionesco's The Chairs for Cutting Ball's March 2013 production.
Alfred Jarry (1873 - 1907) was a French writer born in Laval, Mayenne, France. Best known for his groundbreaking play UBU ROI (1896), which combined infantile humor, social satire, puppets, and Shakespearean parody, Jarry is often cited as a forerunner to the surrealist theater movement of the 1920s and 1930s. He wrote plays, novels, poetry, essays, and speculative journalism, presenting pioneering work in the field of absurdist literature. In his final years, Jarry, a bit of an eccentric, was a legendary and heroic figure to some of the young writers and artists in Paris, including Guillaume Apollinaire, André Salmon, and Max Jacob. In addition to UBU ROI, works for the stage include Caesar Antichrist (César-Antéchrist), Ubu Cuckolded (Ubu cocu), and Ubu Bound (Ubu enchaíné). Alfred Jarry's career was brought to an unfortunate and early end when he died in 1907 at the age of 34 (from complications due to tuberculosis aggravated by drug and alcohol abuse), but his legacy lives on in the works of such playwrights as Eugène Ionesco and Samuel Beckett.
Cutting Ball Theater has assembled a talented ensemble for UBU ROI.