SMTD's 'Mr. Burns' presents post-apocalyptic comedy
The University of Michigan, “The Simpsons” and the end of the world: At first glance, these three concepts seem blended into a sea of randomness. But upon more investigation and a trip to Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre we find that these three do come together in the dark and comedic show, “Mr. Burns A Post-Electric Play,” performed by SMTD’s Department of Theatre and Drama.
Set in the near future, the show follows a group of apocalypse survivors who retell and reenact episodes of the hit TV show “The Simpsons” in order to cope. The story is told over a span of 75 years, and the audience can revel in delight and nostalgia as they watch how the original stories from the show change over time.
The play is a wild spectacle, full of song, dance and “Simpsons” references. Junior BFA Theatre major Ryan Rosenheim plays a Simpsons fanatic named Matt, whose love for the animated program is key to his character and the plot.
Rosenheim recalled the exciting rehearsal process to bring all of these elements together.
“It's an enormous show so there's quite a bit of dancing and singing, so everyone in the cast was always busy during rehearsal times," he said, "We were either working acting beats with our director, learning music with our music director, or developing choreography with various guest choreographers."
The post-apocalyptic reality the play is set in is a time without electricity. Living in a modern age of constant connections via social media and the internet, it can seem unfathomable that this is a central focus to the production.
“The show is post-electric so I try to avoid devices and technology before rehearsals and really try to imagine all of my mundane daily interactions and tasks as memories, for in the apocalypse those mundane things we take for granted are exactly the things you miss," Rosenheim explained, "The show definitely expects a lot of its performers and for myself. I'm out of my comfort zone quite a bit."
However, being in a show this unique has given the actors an opportunity to grow as performers.
“Being a part of Mr. Burns, which is a very ensemble based show, has really allowed me to forgo my ego and simply tell a story to the best of my ability,” he added.
The process is hectic and intense, and it becomes even more strenuous when there is a time crunch. Rosenheim said that the show was put together in just a little over a month.
The cast has dedicated their time, their effort and their creative talents into this show to add the classic SMTD charm to their show. They committed to the rehearsal process, meeting every weekday from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and most of the day on Saturdays. Rehearsals can range anywhere from six to ten hours a day during tech week, which is the week before the show opens.
This performance is one that provokes intrigue and questions, especially in this social climate we are living in right now. Given our modern world with all of the technological affordances at our fingertips, people often forget what matters and the connections we are able to make on an individual and community-based level.
A show about post-apocalyptic people recreating “The Simpsons” is dripping with irony –– they are living in a world after the age of the internet or media and still trying to form basic human connections by relating to one another through the media form of television. I believe this now highlights for us how we create our imagined social communities through media representation and television events, and how we can should find our connections without technology.