Quote of the Day: All that’s left are clever last words. Homer Simpson, source Simpsonswiki, a site dedicated to the television show The Simpsons. The show is in its 29th season. I watched a few episodes back in the early 90’s, but haven’t been paying much attention to it since. I think I saw the “Cape Fear” episode of The Simpsons, which playwright Anne Washburn bases her play Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play on. I have seen the 1991 thriller movie Cape Fear, starring Robert Di Nero, but again, years ago. You don’t necessarily have to know The Simpsons, its characters, or the movie Cape Fear to watch this play, but I think it would help. I was a little lost at times. If you go, do so with an open mind, and just let the story unfold.
When you walk into the Chalberg Theater, you notice right away the bare bones set. A blue light glows in the background, and an orange light emits from a metal trash can, an old couch and folding chairs surround it, like an urban campfire, or a throwback to tent cities during the Depression Era. Something has happened which wiped out all the power plants. The young people are sitting around their trash can fire reminiscing about shows they used to watch. If you listen carefully, they’re giving you the background and details to The Simpsons’ “Cape Fear” episode that is central in the storytelling of this play. Characters talk about the collapse, how long they’ve been there, and who they’re looking for.
I’ve been getting into post-apocalyptic stories lately. Our book club read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I liked it so much that I bought my own copy (we read the library’s Book-Club-in-a-Bag books), took notes and used it as a source for the Play off the Page play writing class I taught last spring. I’m currently listening to Stephen King’s The Stand. I’m about 27 hours into the 47 hour book. It’s a monster! I’ll let you know what I think some time next year. I am quite fascinated by what authors think would happen in our world, and to society, if our entire way of life, which is dependent on electricity, were to suddenly collapse. Anne Washburn thinks we would relive old television shows, recreate commercials, and…I’m not sure what was happening in Act 3. Either an entire self-destruction, or we’d go back to pedal power which will give us Christmas lights. You’ll have to watch it for yourself to determine that.
I applaud Patrick Spradlin and the creative team in the Central Lakes College (CLC) theater department for being bold in producing different material. We have other theaters in the area to do the standards, the safe shows that bring in the audience, and I think that CLC, or Brainerd Community Theater (BCT), is the place to be a little more edgy and push our community out of their comfort zone a little.
You can see Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, directed by Patrick Spradlin, on the Chalberg Stage at CLC, Dec. 1 & 2, 7 & 8 at 7:30, and Dec. 9, at 2:00 pm. For tickets, visit the website for the CLC theater department, call 218-855-8199, or stop by the box office.
Why not try something new? You might find it makes you think of things a little differently and give you a new perspective, or it might make you appreciate your usual standards more. Either way, you’re supporting those who make art, tell stories, and connect communities. The part I loved most about Emily St. John Mandel’s book was that the musicians and actors kept the stories alive and connected the pockets of communities that survived the collapse.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: What would you do if life as we know it suddenly collapsed?
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Mr. Burns is post-apocalyptic? Does sound strange indeed.
That’s good the theater is willing to try new things.
I know. Right, Alex.
Thanks for this, Mary. I think you are right that CLC is exactly the place to push the boundaries a bit, to try new things. I have not had much experience with post-apocalyptic drama, fiction, film… anything. Our own increasingly surreal times seem about as much as I can handle. But one never knows. As always, you inspire me.
I just saw the play last night…so much to think about. My final interpretation of third act is (75 years later according to the performance handbill), this “Cape Fear” episode of the Simpsons has been told and retold, acted and reenacted, so many times, it is no longer even a cult-classic, it’s revered almost as a parable for holding strong to your family, don’t sell-out under mass destruction, etc. It felt almost biblical with the church-like candles on the stage for yet another post-electric societal performance of the now “gospel- accdg to Bart”. I think the phrase I used after the show was that it felt like going to post- apocalyptic “church”. Nice job cast and crew!
Thanks for your interpretation and comment, Sheri. Glad you liked it.