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School of Theatre and Dance presents absurdist comedy King Ubu

October 18, 2016

NIU School of Theatre and Dance will present as its next Mainstage Series production, a classic piece of French literature that is considered the first Absurdist play in the history of live theatre. The political drama-comedy, King Ubu, written by Alfred Jarry, opens Oct. 20 at Huntley Middle School Auditorium in DeKalb.

King Ubu is the story of Pere Ubu and his bride who have started a revolution in the fictional country of Foland in order to become the new king and queen. Already having murdered all but one son of the royal family, Ubu is prepared to execute anyone in his way.

Directed by the school’s director and faculty member, Alexander Gelman, as the cast and crew rehearse, they hear the director repeat a certain adage over and over. “History repeats itself. First as tragedy, then as farce.”

“We make the mistake of thinking Absurdist as just absurd or silly,” Gelman says. “If anything, certainly in 2016, it is probably a more accurate way of seeing the world.”

Gelman provides multiple examples of the absurdity of modern life, even including the recent summer Olympics as having its absurd moments.

Gelman says, “Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe responded to his team not winning any medals in the Olympics by arresting them all when they landed.”

Gelman also notes the dismantling of a memorial to Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs in Russia, where Apple products are far more common than any other brand of electronics. When Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook, announced he was gay, the six-foot-tall iPhone memorial was taken down.

“Even though it was built for a man who was not gay,” he says, “it was considered a violation of their anti-gay propaganda laws. You can’t make this stuff up.”

With the current election campaigns that feel more like farce than politics, Gelman believes Jarry’s satirical script feels at home on a modern stage. While offering neither support nor condemnation towards any modern political figure or party, Gelman admits that this is a theatre production that will very possibly provoke strong opinions in its audience.

Performances are at Huntley Middle School Auditorium, 1515 S. Fourth St., in DeKalb. Curtain times are at 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m., on Sunday and the second Saturday. Content is not appropriate for children under the age of twelve and more sensitive patrons. This production is not affiliated with DeKalb CUSD #428.

General admission tickets for adults are $17, seniors are $14, students are $9, and children are $6. Tickets and additional information are available by contacting the NIU School of Theatre and Dance box office at 815-753-1600, or online at