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Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play by Anne Washburn

A Mysterious Journey with Music and Humor

If you lived past the existence of electricity, what TV show would you want to reconstruct from memory?

Anne Washburn has described the genesis of this play as her exploration of what happens to a TV show’s meaning when it is no longer accessible firsthand; when it exists only in the memories of those who watched it. Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play is a triptych of three places along this new world’s journey from telling stories around a fire, to a touring company fighting for the best memories, and finally to the place where what was once a satirical comedy has become a high art, formalized ritual that evokes their apocalyptic past with the only icons they have left, the cast of The Simpsons.

Storytelling to Explain a Confusing World

This is a play that asks deep questions about how our cultural artifacts, and specifically the stories we tell to and with each other, are our attempts to grapple with an increasingly dangerous world. The play’s leaps-through-time throw a focus to the transformations of this TV show through eight decades of a post-electric world where it can only exist as told by the survivors, and then the performances the survivors create, and finally the rituals of theatre makers far into the future clinging to what shards they have left of a world long gone.

A World with No Screens

In the last two years, many in the theatre world have had to find a way to re-imagine how to do theatre entirely mediated through a screen. We have grieved the loss of communal feeling that only a live and present audience can bring to a performance, but we have also discovered new and different ways to tell stories. This play ponders the opposite: no screens just raw theatre; Performers on a stage finding ways to make imaginary worlds more real. This play throws into relief like the gas footlights of a 19th century theatre on the faces of the performers, our deep need to have communal stories; to come together to make sense of what is happening; to push back the darkness with our collective creation of art.

Mr. Burns A Post Electric Play, an apocalyptic tale, at times musical, and often funny, invites you on a mysterious journey through a speculative future world that somehow has much to say to our current one.

Article by Carolyn Murray, MFA candidate

Department of Theatre Arts

Published February, 2022

Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play

by Anne Washburn

Directed by Carly McMinn, MFA candidate

PG-13. Strong language, mature topics, use of theatrical firearms, simulated violence and sword fight.

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