July 14, 2024

‘Mr. Burns’ intrigues audiences at Clarence Brown Lab Theatre

With the help of English professor, Misty Anderson, “Mr. Burns: a Post-Electric Play” made its journey from London’s West End to the Clarence Brown Theatre. The show will finish its run on Sunday, Nov. 15.

"Mr. Burns" is currently playing at the Clarence Brown Theatre. //Photo by Alley Loope

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Imagine a post-apocalyptic world, where the electricity grid has gone down and everything is slowly engulfed with radioactivity, and the most important thing for the survivors to remember is…. an episode of “The Simpsons?” This unusual world is the one presented in “Mr. Burns: a Post-Electric Play” at the Clarence Brown Lab Theatre.

The idea for the play, written by Anne Washburn, actually came from locking a theater troupe inside a bank vault and asking them to discuss the episode of “The Simpsons” that they could remember most. Interestingly enough, the group chose to recount the episode titled “Cape Feare.” This episode becomes the center story piece for the entire production.

The episode centers around Bart Simpson receiving death threats from an escaped convict called Sideshow Bob, who eventually captures the entire Simpson family on a houseboat on Terror Lake before he is finally caught and sent back to prison. However, in the production, the character of Sideshow Bob is actually represented as Mr. Burns, owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

This story, combined with the story of nuclear terror and destruction taking place in the “real” world within the play, are told and retold over a span of 82 years. This results in the stories completely morphing together and becoming so twisted that no one really knows what the original tale could have been.

“The protagonist of the play isn’t really any of our characters, it is the storytelling, the theatre, and keeping culture alive as a whole,” said Ethan Roeder, who plays Mr. Burns.

“Mr. Burns” actually made its journey to the University of Tennessee all the way from London’s West End. A group of 11 UT students, led by English professor Misty Anderson, originally saw the production at the Almeida Theatre in July 2014 and were intrigued by the concept.

“When we all came out of the show, our first reaction was what in the world did we just see,” said Stephanie Lee, one of the students who attended the London show. “It was such a bizarre and confusing concept, but even if we didn’t really understand it at first, we knew it was something amazing.”

Anderson and another member of the group, Kerri Considine, brought the script home, and were adamant about making “Mr. Burns” part of the CBT schedule for the 2015-2016 season.

Director Casey Sams immediately fell in love with the show after only one reading of the script, and was thrilled to be a part of the experience.

“Having the opportunity to work on a play with that kind of message has been one of the most spectacular opportunities of my life,” Sams said.

Sams said that she gains something after watching each performance.

“The part that I take away from this show every night is that as we do face a world that’s very scary right now, even in the face of huge loss, life goes on and there’s still so much to be thankful for even when it seems impossible,” Sams said.

“Mr. Burns” finishes its run this week with six shows, and will close on Nov. 15.

For more information, visit the official Clarence Brown Theatre website.

Featured image by Alley Loope

Edited by Taylor Owens

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Alley is a junior at UT majoring in journalism and electronic media. She has a passion for pop culture like no other and hopes to one day work on red carpets interviewing all of her favorite celebrities. When not writing for the Tennessee Journalist, you can probably find Alley live-tweeting award shows or sharing photos of her cat, Hedwig, on Twitter.