A vulgar tyrant’s mad quest for power, instigated by his selfish wife, prompts him to kill the King and usurp the throne. While in power, Pere Ubu destroys everything he touches. Eventually, his army is defeated and he is nullified by the supreme power of the Police Force.
UBU was adapted from dada master Alfred Jarry’s Ubu On The Hill written in 1888. Our original translation by Jim Bierman removed references to the French political figures of the day, while keeping all of the insanity. Ubu’s favorite word, “merdre,” was accurately translated to English and shouted, as scripted, throughout the play with great frequency and relish.
The original music by Jim Steinman added urgency and punch to the Uburian discord and mayhem.
UBU was performed to the prerecorded sound track, which contained all the music, singing, dialogue, and sound effects. Vocal characterizations were performed by Demian, Chris Jones, Barry Keating and Ellen Parks.
UBU was commissioned as part of a DADA Festival that took place during the summer of 1971 on the five college campuses in the Amherst area. UBU played at Mount Holyoke (May 8), Amherst College (May 9), Hampshire College (May 10), Smith College (May 11), and University of Massachusetts (May 12).
In the summer of 1971, Demian enlisted the musical talents of Jim Steinman for an adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu On The Hill (originally written in 1888). Jim was a student at Amherst College and was an excellent pianist, composer and arranger.
Barry Keating, who recommended Jim to Demian, communicated to Jim the musical needs of the script. These needs included music for the introduction, several songs, many interludes and the end piece. Once the desired musical segments were made clear, Jim composed — on the spot — on a baby grand piano on the Amherst campus.
Because of the outrageously short schedule, there was little time to compose and Jim came through with just the right style, tempo and song variety. The melodies were excellently matched to the poetic texts. After finalizing the shape of each section of music, Jim played the pieces once again, recording on a reel-to-reel tape machine.
Later, the taped music was cued to play with the live voices and sound effects that were performed at the recording studio at the WMUA radio station. The resulting tape became the master “sound track” which was played for the live puppet performances of UBU.
Unfortunately, the music recordings for UBU are not available. The contracts with the music and acting talent for the sound track were made only for use in the original puppet show, and not for any further distribution.
Cast and CrewEdit
Demian - producer, director, puppeteer
Demian, Barry Keating, Janet Schmukle - puppetmakers
Jim Steinman - music
Demian, Barry Keating, Ellen Parks, Chris Jones - voices