April 9, 2019
A group of apocalypse survivors plays a mythic game of telephone in the Northern Arizona University Department of Theatre’s “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play,” written by Anne Washburn and music by Michael Friedman.
The play begins shortly after an apocalypse. The electric grid has gone down and nuclear plants are oozing radiation, killing millions of people and destroying the world as we know it. A group of survivors gathers around a campfire to brave their new reality by recounting another remnant of the bygone world—the television show “The Simpsons.”
The survivors focus on “The Simpsons” episode spoofing the movie “Cape Fear.” The familiar tale becomes a historical artifact, but as with the whispering game of telephone, the story morphs over time. It becomes a legend to find meaning in the new world. Characters question what is behind the true reason we tell stories: Are they to entertain, or to teach, or for us to empathize and find truth?
“This is a dark play with lighter moments and intensity in the subtext that gets at the heart of fear and loss,” said theatre director Kathleen McGeever. “As we face our own pressures of potential disasters from global warming, infrastructure failures and more, the play questions the possible new rules of survivor co-existence.”
“Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play” is in three acts and includes a drama, a play with a cappella music and an operetta with a mix of numerous musical genres. McGeever said the production challenged its actors and student designers who had to work around depicting a world with no electricity.
“The actors are learning to find a balance with complicated choreography, singing harmony, and dealing with very tough subject matter as well as lighter entertainment,” she said. “It is a beast of a play with a hopeful ending, and we need that today.”
The cast includes eight actors and three musicians. Two student designers are managing lighting and sound, with two assistant designers working on costumes and choreography. The total crew is about 50 people, including actors Claire Woodard, Julissa Garcia, Kelsey Brown, Je’maya Jackson, Hadley Singer, Emily Wood, Spencer Beck and Krista Garcia.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on April 19-20 and 25-27 and at 2 p.m. on April 21 and 28. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and NAU employees and $8 for youth and NAU students. Tickets can be purchased online or in the Central Ticket Office, located inside the University Union.