Who can’t resist a story about forbidden love? Ursula encompasses all the ingredients needed for a fascinating tale about love with sexuality, violence and dark humor.
Who can’t resist a story about forbidden love? Ursula encompasses all the ingredients needed for a fascinating tale about love with sexuality, violence and dark humor. The play, a production of Our Shoes Are Red/The Performance Lab and TASO Productions, tests the limits of most theater productions and brings a provocative 10th-century story about Mother Placida and her young female pupils as they discover the consequences of temptation and desire.
Eleven virgins—including Saint Ursula, the star pupil—witness their headmistress, Placida, as she sacrifices her reputation to pursue her new love. Placida instantly falls for the young and powerful Prince Lucas and his feelings are mutual. Their strong attraction to each other causes Placida to question her life of purity and devotion to her students, despite the ensuing dissatisfaction of her pupils and the town.
The group of young women is determined to bring Placida back to her senses. Placida and Lucas must find a way to continue seeing each other, but learn they must take violent measures to ensure they will be together.
Ursula, written by Howard Barker, opened in Portland to kick off the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center’s 2009–10 season and has been showing for the last four weeks.
Closing weekend will be this week. After this weekend, the production will be heading to 21 for 21—an international festival celebrating Barker’s works—on Oct. 21. Barker is a well-known playwright whose stories have been known to expand the limitations of theater. He presents his texts in a way that allows room for interpretation throughout the performance and leaves the message to be determined by the viewer. Among the many aspects addressed in his work, Barker’s focus tends to address human nature, sexuality and power, with the language of the theater and bits of comedic relief to make it go down easier.
The producers have combined their efforts to allow younger, less experienced theater participants to work with seasoned professionals to learn tools of the trade that will no doubt prove invaluable in years to come. Our Shoes Are Red/The Performance Lab was established in 1993 and seeks to create an emphasis on the actual creation of artistic works through unique rehearsal techniques.
The cast is made up of 11 women and one man, all established actors. Devon Allen plays Placida, Sarah McGregor portrays Ursula and Matthew DiBiasio takes on the role of Lucas. Allen has worked for the La Jolla Playhouse and the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. McGregor has acted in Lanford Wilson’s Burn This, and DiBiasio was recently in the show Thom Pain.