Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pivot Arts Festival 2017/ Review of Ubu The King

Pivot Arts Festival is a celebration of innovative performances in theater, dance, music, puppetry, site-specific works, and spoken word.  The festival takes place in Edgewater, Uptown, and Rogers Park, and sees as very important the collaboration between artists, communities, and businesses.

Pivot Arts works year round, producing a monthly series and occasional artistic colloquies, as well as artistic projects, but their raison d'etre is the Pivot Arts Festival, a 10 day multi-disciplinary festival that combines all kinds of performances in all kinds of venues, and includes a community parade.  This year is the fifth year!

I've missed the last couple of Pivot Arts Fests, even though they've been literally under my nose.  I  came pretty close to missing this one as well (and this year they held a parade on my street!  Somehow I missed the parade!  That might be the story of my life!)

From the Rough House Website
I'm happy to report that I didn't miss it.  Last night I saw one of the Pivot offerings,  Rough House Theatre's show Ubu The King.   The show was held at the FLATs Studio on Wilson. (Just west of the Wilson Red Line)  (Flats Studio is a great program which takes unused storefronts and apartments in FLATS buildings and puts art in them!  Find out more here.)

The show itself was great.  True to Ubu's spirit, it was rough hewn and ribald and had some crazy inventive words in it (For those that don't know, Ubu Roi was a play that caused a huge sensation in Paris when it opened in 1896.  The first line is "Merrrdre"  which gets translated as "Shitttrs!"  After the first word was uttered at the world premiere, there was a near riot, and the play had to be stopped for almost 30 minutes.)

Ubu by Rough House Theatre.  photo by Joe Mazza.
The play then proceeds with a whole bunch of scatalogical humor, a rough lampooning of Shakespeare's MacBeth, about a super lazy good for nothing guy (Pere Ubu) who through cowardice, luck, and sheer cruelty becomes the King of Poland, thanks in part to his shrewish wife Mere Ubu.  It's kind of a cruel play about a cruel guy, as written by an overly bright and vicious middle school student about his terrible (and very fat) physics teacher (that's where the play started!)

Alfred Jarry
The author Alfred Jarry is a favorite character of mine.  He was a French surrealist, and he lived the part, carrying around a gun and riding a bicycle through Turn of the Century Paris.  One of my favorite quotes of his is this "One can show one's contempt for the cruelty and stupidity of the Universe by making of one's life a poem of incoherence and absurdity."

Jarry later invented pataphysics (well, he expanded on it) , a kind of mock science/philosophy that some folks have described as "a branch of philosophy or science that examines imaginary phenomena that exist in a world beyond metaphysics; it is the science of imaginary solutions." (Thanks Wikipedia!)

 As Jarry once wrote, expressing some of the bizarre logic of 'pataphysics, "If you let a coin fall and it falls, the next time it is just by an infinite coincidence that it will fall again the same way; hundreds of other coins on other hands will follow this pattern in an infinitely unimaginable fashion."

Ubu the puppet.
Jarry died young of tuberculosis, aggravated by drinking and drug use.  He drank ether and absinthe like it was going out of style!

As you might imagine, Jarry and his craziness his particularly appealed to me when I was a college student, just learning about this guy and this crazy artist filled world of turn of the century Paris.
(I've been in the play Ubu twice!)

This is my favorite translation of Ubu.
The line drawings are great too!
Buy it on Amazon
The Rough House play was performed by a troupe of 5, and they all did a great job of presenting myriad puppet characters.  I loved the style of characters, who were performed Bunraku style, and were roughly hewn stuffed dolls.  The dolls get thrown around, stuffed into killing machines, stabbed, beaten, thrown about some more, and it's great fun.  I also really loved the innovative use of furniture in the show.  The set was framed by three ladders tied together, which held the lighting system, but could also be climbed on.  Two drawer cabinets (chest of drawers) on wheels were also used, and the shelves pulled out to make set pieces, hold puppets, and folded around to use the stage.  It was very well realized!  If you have the chance to see the show, I'd highly recommend it.  Find out more about Rough House here. (Rough House also helps produce the quarterly puppet slam that I have participated in, Nasty Brutish, and Short)

Improv and ice cream will be performed
by Storytown on June 11 at Lickety Split
Sadly, you won't be able to see Ubu at the Festival, because the Rough House run has ended, but there's a lot more going on in the festival, including dance, improv comedy, theatre, spoken word, an arts crawl, and the festival will end next week on June 11 with family friendly improv at our local frozen custard shop Lickety Splits.  Some of the performers include Barrel of Monkeys, the NeoFuturists, Same Planet Performance Project, Ayako Kato and Synapse Arts, and Storytown.

To find out more about the festival, to buy tickets, and to donate so that stuff like this will happen more often, please visit the Pivot Arts website

No comments: