By Lauren Jurgemeyer
Blog Content Contributor
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, written by Anne Washburn, opens at Texas State in the Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre on Oct. 2 and runs through Oct. 7. I had the pleasure of attending a few rehearsals of the upcoming production. Under the direction of Isaac Byrne, a post-apocalyptic world that exists within the show comes to life.
Unassuming, as an audience member, I sat in confusion as the house lights flickered and the buzz of electricity grew louder in my ears. Before the grand curtain rose the lights fizzled out similar to a power surge. This began the theatrical experience that is Mr. Burns.
The show circles around the themes of family and the unknown. The character dynamics and relationships makes it clear that family is not always connected by blood. The small, makeshift group of strangers that appear at the top of the show grow over the course of the first two acts into a familial unit. Together they fear the unknown, and that fear becomes a powerful divide among them. Pop culture is a distraction– the group finds solace in it, as they recount episodes of The Simpsons verbatim.
The character of Mr. Burns (Shane Satterfield) himself is a symbolic force throughout the show. He represents the fear that lives within the different characters and how it can pull someone apart from the inside. His counterpart Bart Simpson (Ana Puig) embodies hope; the pairs’ performance in the third act is a testament to the themes of the show.
According to Puig the show is “…overwhelming and extremely intense, but looking past all the situational circumstances… it’s truly about love at the end of the day.”
The actors are a group of multi-talented individuals; they dance, sing and a few of them even rap. The cast gives nothing less than authentic performances. The emotions are raw and not contrived in the slightest. Every cast member is a standout, and delivers a wonderful performance that I can only begin to describe.
The technical aspects of this show are just as impressive. Sydney Smith designed the lighting, and that aspect alone evoked such a strong sense of isolation in the first act. The show opens with dim hues of blue-green lighting that cast shadows on the actors’ faces; the lighting slowly brightens as the group comes together towards the end of act one.
The sound design, by James Winnenberg and Flora McNabb, only aids the moods and tones of the scenes. During times of great mourning in the first act, the soft sound of firewood crackling fills the pregnant silences adding to the sense of isolation and sadness felt by the characters and the audience.
The costume design by Ryan Sozzi and the scenic design by Michelle Ney are both incredible. The costumes towards the end of Act II are shocking and jaw-dropping along with the actors’ performances. The designs are resourceful and fit The Simpsons characters to a T (my personal favorite is the costume that Gibson (Trevor Person) wears at the end of Act II) and it is impossible to not mention the wonderful masks and costumes that the actors wear in the third act.
The set is completely made out of recycled materials. The set in Act I reminds me of the tent cities that one finds in a large city–tarps, cardboard pieces, plastic bags, etc. all make up the campsite at the top of the show, while the set in Act II acts as a staging ground for their theatre troupe. The show-stopping set appears in Act III; it’s truly an impressive sight!
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play is a testament to humanity and the bond that joins survivors together. To conclude her earlier statement, Puig said, “[The show is] truly about love at the end of the day.” I find her statement to hold true– the show is about how love can overcome the fear of the unknown.
Tickets are available online, by phone at (512) 245-6500 and at the box office an hour prior to the show.
Featured image by Lauren Jurgemeyer.