Dada Comes to Berkeley — Shotgun Players Take Ubu to the Park

guest post by mikl-em

Shotgun Players' Ubu Roi poster by R Black

Berkeley’s Shotgun Players are staging Ubu Roi the classic work of proto-dadaism. Performances will be in John Hinkel Park in Berkeley.

The show opens this Saturday and runs until mid-September, it’s a free show in the park but donations are encouraged (just like the San Francisco Mime Troupe). It’s a rare opportunity to see a first rate production of one of the great strange theatrical works of all time. And it’s the perfect thing for an election year!

Ridiculous! Raucous! Irreverent! Absurd!

Shotgun Players invite you to jeer at the candidates, throw some rotten cabbages and stand up for what you really believe in at John Hinkel Park – starting this weekend!

Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm
August 2nd – September 14th

Bring a picnic! Or belly up to the concessions stand for a Shotgun snack.

JOHN HINKEL PARK (Southampton Ave. off The Arlington in North Berkeley)

FREE ADMISSION with Campaign contributions to Shotgun Players strongly encouraged!

Dave Garrett, Ryan O’Donnell, Carla Pantoja, Gary Grossman, Sung Min Park, Casi Maggio, Marlon Deleon, Megan Guzman, Raechel Lockhardt, Alf Pollard & Jordan Winer

This is show four of an impressive 6-show year for the Shotgun Players including Beowulf (by Banana Bag & Bodice which earned Best Theatrical Production of the Year) and the upcoming Vera Wilde (with Sean Owens as Oscar Wilde). And if the on-stage work weren’t enough, Shotgun’s guest poster designer is artist R Black, that’s his work above.

Ubu Roi is a play by Alfred Jarry which pre-dated and influenced Dada (as well as Surrealism). It debuted in 1896 (when he was only 23 years old) and was, by any considered Dadaist’s terms, a mind-blowingly raging success…

Alfred Jarry, Ubu Roi (Program for Ubu Roi), 1896

To quote from Wikipedia….

Ubu Roi’s savage humor and monstrous absurdity, unlike anything thus far performed in French theater, seemed unlikely to ever actually be performed on stage. However, impetuous theater director Aurélien-Marie Lugné-Poe took the risk, producing the play at his Théâtre de l’Oeuvre.

On opening night (10 December 1896), with traditionalists and the avant-garde in the audience, King Ubu (played by Firmin Gémier) stepped forward and intoned the opening word, “Merdre!” (“Shittr!”). A quarter of an hour of pandemonium ensued: outraged cries, booing, and whistling by the offended parties, countered by cheers and applause by the more forward-thinking contingent. Such interruptions continued through the evening. At the time, only the dress rehearsal and opening night performance were held, and the play was not revived until 1907.

Alfred Jarry died that same year–1907, less than a decade into the 20th Century–at the ripe age of 34 from complications related to his sincere love for ether and absinthe.

He was remembered and his spirit carried on by friends who would become great and ground-breaking writers and artists in their own right including Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, and Pablo Picasso.

Jarry also invented “Pataphysics” which he described as the science of imaginary solutions. His other literary works include Caesar Antichrist and Le Surmâle (The Supermale) which is known as the first cyborg sex novel. A film based on The Supermale will show later this year at YBCA in San Francisco.

Ubu Roi essay and full script

poster art by R Black

image #1 from the original program for Ubu Roi

image #2 from Wikipedia


Actor, nerd, poet, producer, writer mikl-em made his name short so you wouldn't have to. In addition to his blog you can find his writing in "Hi Fructose" magazine and witness him almost life-sized in various plays at The Dark Room Theater in SF's Mission district.

He tends to write about theater, humor, San Francisco culture and history, and stuff that's just plain weird. He thanks Scott for sharing the keys to the Laughing Squid virtual HQ and promises to uphold whatever it is that the mirthful cephalopod would prefer to be uplifted.