The Resitable Rise of Arturo Ui was intended by Brecht to be first performed in the United States, but he was unable to get a production mounted. Brecht brought the play to the attention director Erwin Piscator in New York, suggesting Oskar Homolka to play Ui. Piscator and Brecht's frequent musical collaborator, Hanns Eisler, got H. R. Hay to translate the work, which was completed by September 1941, and submitted to Louis Shaffer, the director of Labor Stage, who turned it down as "not advisable to produce", presumable because the United States was still, at the time, a neutral country.
The play lingered in the drawer until 1953, after Brecht has founded the Berliner Ensemble, and had produced there his major works. He showed the play around to a larger circle of people than had seen it previously, and this eventually led to the Berliner Ensemble's production – except that Brech insisted that scenes from his Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, a series of realistic short pieces about life in the Third Reich thet was written around 1935 – needed to be produced first. His fear was that the German audience was still too close to their previous psychic connection to Hitler.
When Brecht died in 1956, the Berliner Ensemble still had not produced Fear and Misery in the Third Reich – which at various times was also called 99% and The Private Life of the Master Race – but Brecht had prepared it for publication, which came out in 1957. That same year, scenes from the work were stageed by five young directors of the Ensemble. One of them, Peter Palitzsch, directed the world previere of The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui in Stuttgart, West Germany, in 1958. The Ensemble itself first produced the play four months later, with Palitzsch and Manfred Wekwerth co-directing, and Ekkhard Schall as Arturo Ui. This production, "staged in fairground style, with ruthless verve and brassy vulgarity" was presented also in Berlin, London and at the Paris International Theatre Festival. A later production by the Berliner Ensemble, directed by Heiner Müller has run in repertory since June 1995, with Martin Wuttke in the title role.
The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui was presented twice on Broadway. The first production was in 1963, with Christopher Plummer in the lead role and Michael Constantine, Elisha Cook, Lionel Stander, Sandy Baron, Oliver Clark and James Coco in the cast. It was directed by Tony Richardson and ran for 5 previews and 8 performances. The second Broadway production of the play took place in 1968–69, with Robin Gammell as Ui, and was directed by Edward Payson Call. It ran for 10 performances.
The play was also presented twice Off Broadway: in 1991 by the Classic Stage Company, with John Turturro as Arturo Ui, directed by Carey Perloff, and again in 2002 by the National Actors Theatre, with Ui played by Al Pacino, and Steve Buscemi, Billy Crudup, Charles Durning, John Goodman, Chazz Palminteri and Tony Randall in the cast. It was directed by Simon McBurney.
The part of Arturo Ui has also been played by a number of other notable actors including Peter Falk, Griff Rhys Jones, Leonard Rossiter, Antony Sher, and Nicol Williamson, as well as Jean Vilar and Australian actor John Bell. Simon Callow discusses his interpretation of the role in his autobiography, Being an Actor, while Plummer explains why he felt he failed in the role on Broadway in his autobiography, In Spite of Me.