Final CSUDH Play of Season Illuminates Modern Mythscsudhbulletin May 5, 2021 0 COMMENTS
In a not-so-distant future, Earth experiences a second dark age; one without technology and wi-fi in this off-broadway play. Illustrated by Darlene Maes.
By Gabriela Medina, Staff Reporter
Although the name of the show isn’t in the title, the final play in the CSUDH theater department’s 2020-21 theater season uses an episode of the animated sitcom “The Simpsons,” to tell a story about how and why we tell stories.
“Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play,” written by Anne Washburn and first produced in 2012 by the Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington D.C., draws on the oldest storytelling technique in the book, oral history, in its post-apocalyptic tale of a group of survivors trying to keep themselves entertained with no internet, streaming services or even electricity, other than batteries.
So how does the group pass the time? Well, by recalling mythology.. But not the tales of Hercules, Medusa, or other ancient myths, but “The Simpsons.”
While the survivors negotiate on what to talk about, they realize they have all one thing in common: the Simpson episode “Cape Feare.” The episode was first aired on Oct. 7, 1993. It begins with Bart receiving an anonymous threat in the mail. Later, the Simpsons come to realize that the threats have been coming from Sideshow Bob, who had just been released from prison. However, his attempt to kill Bart with a machete fails yet again.
But the play doesn’t stop with the retelling of a Simpsons episode. It highlights stories and oral histories that have become commonplace in new forms of media productions. As a New York Times review of a 2013 production said:
“That single “Simpsons” episode becomes a treasure-laden bridge, both to the past and into the future. And in tracing a story’s hold on the imaginations of different generations, the play is likely to make you think back — way back — to narratives that survive today from millenniums ago. Every age, it seems, has its Homers.”
Along with what they can remember from the episode, the characters in the play also try to recall television commercials, jingles, sitcom plots, and pop songs of the era. The result becomes less about remembering a particular episode of a show, than it is about using shared pop culture references, which are often viewed as transitory and meaningless, as a way to give meaning in a world where there seems to be little meaning to hold onto.
As a 2017 review of the play on The Guardian’s website said:
“Mr. Burns is fittingly subtitled – A Post-Electric Play – but the comparison is closer than that; it’s a three-act play reckoning with the shape of the stories that make us human, give us faith, and create gods and monsters that we can comprehend and thus perhaps fight.”
CSUDH theater director, Naomi Buckley decided to take on the idea of showing Mr. Burns as an animated ideal of how the pop culture of one era may evolve into the myths and legends of eras to come, at the University Theatre, according to the theater’s website.
“Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play,” will be a live-streamed event on May 6, 7, and 8 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be bought here for $10. For more information please contact the Department of Theatre and Dance @PerformingArts@csudh.edu.