by Benjamin Mitchell ’13
Public Relations Intern, International Theatre Program
This fall’s production at Todd Theatre, Ubu Roi, has a large cast, which includes Stella Kammel ’12 (T5) and Lydia Jimenez ’13, playing Mama and Papa Ubu, respectively. Jimenez is majoring in English with a concentration in theatre, and Kammel also is an English major. Both have been active in the UR’s theatre community.
“During my four years in the program, I’ve assistant stage managed, assistant directed, acted, worked on the props design and construction and scenic painting crew, and participated in the Theatre in England seminar under Russell Peck,” says Jimenez. “I am profoundly grateful for the endless opportunities afforded to me by the UR International Theatre Program and English Department.”
Kammel has also been heavily involved on campus. She’s been cast in various plays at Todd Theatre and is member of the campus student theatre company, TOOP (The Opposite of People). She also is a member of the Masters Swim Club (not to be confused with the Bachelors Swim Club).
Both students have favorite (and memorable) moments and roles. For Kammel, one was the playing the role of Mitzi in An Absolute Turkey, a flamboyant bawdy Swiss-German woman. “She was crazy!” exclaims Kammel. “She had to wield an axe, and was required to impale it in a square board where [the props makers] had painted a Swiss cross.”
Luckily, Kammel hit the mark, bull’s-eye, every single performance. “I love stage fright,” she says. “That’s the closest I’ve gotten to it here.”
Kammel also is a fan of accents and remembers diligently practicing her German accent during auditions, hoping to get the French sound out of it. The character of Mitzi was particularly easy to understand, so rather than having to figure out the character, she was able to play with moments and go beyond what she would have been able to do otherwise. On top of that, Nigel Maister, artistic director of the UR International Theatre Program, was directing. Kammel said she finds him “a lot of fun to work with.”
Jimenez notes that assistant directing Adding Machine: A Musical and closely watching professional actors in more than 25 plays in England has greatly informed her acting. “I’ve gained an audible and visible understanding of directions and acting notes. I take a bit of time to process and internalize, and when I’m given a direction, I initially understand it theoretically,” she explains. “Watching actors in rehearsal from the other side of the table in Adding Machine allowed me to see why things don’t work—I was able to hear when they were not being spontaneous in their continually downwardly inflected lines, and see how the actor’s gestures when performed devoid of impulse ‘look only like moves.’”
One might wonder where such a great passion for theatre might originate, and Jimenez explains that there are a lot of reasons why theatre is so important to her and why she is interested in it. “For one, the theatre is one of the few venues I know of where wholehearted and uninterrupted storytelling can happen nowadays. I can’t remember the last time I was able to tell a story without a listener being distracted by a text message or other media device. In the theatre, listeners commit undivided attention to the actors, and actors communicate without disturbance. It’s refreshing,” she says.
Jimenez also notes that she is “always moved and astonished to witness the enlivening of words on a page: on the actor’s side as they internalizes and vocalizes the text, and on the production side by the lighting, staging, sound and, often, video added to the text in production—all of the aspects that are not present in the little black marks on the page, but that the actors, director and designers conceive.”
Jimenez says that working under visiting guest artist Peter Karapetkov has taught her that these concepts are limitless. “We are leaps and bounds now from where we were at our first table reading of the show. Peter continuously changed the blocking, motivations and through-lines of the characters throughout the entire rehearsal process, up until the day before opening, and even slightly after the first performance,” she explains. “Some approaches worked better than others, and even though the constant reworking was frustrating and uncomfortable at times, these limitless interpretations are a celebration of textual ambiguity.”
In Ubu Roi, Kammel’s character, Ma Ubu, was difficult because it was the first time she’s had to sing, which was at first terrifying to her, but has subsequently become a really fun and exciting experience. Furthermore, because she likes to have the audience like her, it’s very tough with this character, which is quite unsympathetic. “I don’t like her [Ma Ubu] … well, I do like her, but I wouldn’t want to have lunch with her,” she says.
Kammel also remarks that there are many times in Ubu Roi when there isn’t a specific action the actors are required to perform and so they can just improvise with the space on stage, allowing new things to come out every show. Additionally, everyone sings and is crazy at the end “which is a lot of fun and super exciting.” As an added benefit, she gets to eat a lot of chocolate in the show; five pieces a night, and sometimes even six!
“Todd is so much fun and I’ve learned so much being part of the International Theatre Program,” Kammel says. “I feel like it’s not under-appreciated, but also not as well known as it deserves to be. It should be a real source of pride on campus because everyone puts so much work into it, and at the end the productions are so beautiful. Come see the show! Go Todd!”
Ubu Roi runs through Saturday, Oct. 20, in Todd Theatre on the University of Rochester’s River Campus. Tickets are $7 for UR students; $10 for UR alumni, faculty and staff, and for seniors (55 and over); and $13 for the general public. Tickets may be purchased up to an hour before each performance at the box office. They also are available online at rochester.edu/theatre or by calling 585.275.4088.
In the Photo: Stella Kammel and Lydia Jimenez performing in Ubu Roi. Photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester.