Years and years ago I saw a listing in the Phoenix New Times that some small theater I had never heard of was doing a performance of “Ubu Roi”. I had been wanting to see a performance of “Ubu Roi” for years, so I hurried down to catch the show on its closing weekend. I almost missed the show: I drove past the building four times before I realized where it was. I’ll never forget walking into the theater and seeing trash strewn all over the floors, a toilet set up as a throne onstage and Johnny Thunders’ “Chinese Rocks” playing as the house music. I sat in my chair and immediately thought “This is my home”. That was my first night at Space 55.
I had never been a “theater person” growing up. Too many bad memories of being forced to watch bad productions of Shakespeare in school and having to practice singing “Seasons of Love” over and over and over again in drama class instilled in me an almost instinctual hatred of theater. I started going to plays a few years back to broaden my horizons. I saw a lot of really great shows at places like Stray Cat and Nearly Naked and iTheatre. But I never came away from those shows thinking “There’s a place for me here” or “I could do that”. It was like watching Olympians practice in an arena: The display of skill and talent and raw force of will was awe-inspiring, but also alienating. I would watch shows like “Columbinus” and think that if I ever tried to do anything like that I’d probably just trip over my big feet and break my fool neck. Better to sit in my chair and watch the professionals do it.
“Ubu Roi” was different. I watched a group of extremely talented people get onstage and act like cartoon characters, like gibbering lunatics, like nothing I had ever seen before. If those other shows were Olympian athletes, this show was a gleeful drunk fan stripping naked and running through the center of the field hooting and hollering and passing out in the middle of the race track in a pool of their own bright pink vomit. It was rude and messy and preposterous and glorious. I watched it and for the first time ever thought “This looks like fun… I COULD do this”.
So why am I bringing this up? Because last Saturday a revamped production of “Ubu Roi” closed at Space 55 after a month long run. And instead of watching someone play a deranged fat idiot onstage, this time I was the deranged fat idiot. This is my home, and I’m living the dream.