faith, economy, sex + history :: a genre-bending puppet drama

A bawdy, absurdist puppet comedy, Ububu examines how people in power manipulate the stories that affect our lives. Set in the timeless kingdoms of the Ultimate Ububu and Papa Popeddy, these two rulers seek mutually-opposed domination. When the Papa creates a puppet man, Franco Francesco, to disrupt productivity in Ubeland’s ol’Factories, Ububu goes berserk with vengeance. “Popeddy’s quinced me one too many times,” explodes Ububu, “And you all will pay!”

Based on the historical meeting between St Francis of Assisi and the Ayyubid Sultan Malik al-Kamil in the 13th century, Ububu unpacks a little-known historical moment to examine the filthy business of money and power. These moral subjects played a huge role in the medieval Crusades – amongst our earliest and bloodiest culture wars – and continue to play major roles in the way our world works today. “I’ve been obsessed with this story since studying the Legend of St Francis in college,” Ranpura says. “I am interested in how the ability to describe the invisible becomes a tool of power. We humans are clever, and our ways of getting what we want are so various – this event that happened so long ago has become a black box in which I’ve held a lot of ideas about the ontology of history and the nature of belief.”


premiered April 2014 with the help of

The combination of virtuosic puppetry and live acting featured the charismatic performances of Maren Ward, Elise Langer, and Skyler Nowinski. The team of directors included Theatre Novi Most’s Lisa Channer and Jerome fellows Sarah Saltwick and Jake Jeppson, with advice from Dreamland Arts’ Zaraawar Mistry. Ranpura’s projected animations and shadow puppetry connected the medieval and modern worlds, blending media and bending traditional expectations about theatrical space in this wild journey about history.


This activity was made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. It has been developed with the support of the Jerome Many Voices fellowship at the Playwrights’ Center of Minneapolis.