“Complex and rebellious” is how BFA Acting sophomore Mia Hammond describes Theatre UCF’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s epic play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. A satirical parable chronicling Hitler’s rise to power, the play continues to push boundaries as society evolves, and in some ways, fails to change.
Written in 1941 after Brecht fled Germany amid World War II, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui follows fictional mobster Arturo Ui, who controls the cauliflower trade in 1930s Chicago by ruthlessly disposing of any opposition. With high-stakes, unexpected turns and a cast of morally grey characters, audiences are invited to contemplate the nature of power, corruption, good and evil. At UCF, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui opens Feb 2 at 7:30 p.m. and runs through Feb 12 in the Main Stage Theatre.
The ensemble cast of 25 UCF students each portray multiple characters who initially believe they are doing the right thing. But along the way, audiences will witness how “the right thing” is often subjective.
Theatre UCF Students Zachary Racine and Jonathan Gardon hard at work during The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui rehearsal.
“The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is particularly interesting today because of the current divide we are experiencing in American politics, in which people are very emotionally tied to one point of view,” says Christopher Niess, associate professor of theatre and director of the play. “It is often said that there are not enough opportunities to have a reasoned, logical discussion on issues. During times like this, it’s especially important to have plays like Arturo Ui that allow us to step back and think objectively.”
The play consistently breaks the fourth wall, signaling to the audience that they are watching a performance. Hammond recalls a scene in the opening of the play that shows the cast and crew setting up the stage like a 1930’s movie shoot. This is done to distance the audience from the story and keep them from becoming emotionally tied to the characters — allowing viewers to analyze the philosophical implications of the drama from an objective standpoint.
Because the play focuses on philosophy over realism, student actors and designers are afforded creative freedom in making decisions about the set and characters. This was an exciting opportunity for Hammond, an ensemble member playing multiple roles.
“The rehearsal process is very curious, very active. People are constantly asking questions about their character and their motivations, and voicing their thoughts on how a scene should go,” Hammond said. “It’s very fulfilling as an actor to have that freedom, even if you have a small role. There’s lots of opportunity for introspection and working those powers of analysis. As students, we’re all learning together, and that bonds us.”
Theatre UCF students Aidan McDonnell, Katherine Polgar and Kacie Bailey hard at work creating one of the many costumes for The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui offers a space for students to explore and audiences to contemplate, opening conversation and free thought in contrast to the regime portrayed on stage.
“I’m glad that UCF is doing this show, because it shows that we’re not afraid to open conversations about these topics,” Hammond said. “History repeats itself. If you watch the play, you can take an outside perspective and see how everything is connected and everyone is involved in creating history.”
Tickets are $25 for general admission and $10 for students with ID from any school. The full show schedule and registration are available here.