Alexandria City High School
Oh, I'll watch this play all right, I'll watch this play forever….. Hayfield Secondary School's performance of Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play is sure to make any theater aficionado say, "I need to see that again."
Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play premiered in May of 2012, in Washington DC. This comically dark production was written by Anne Washburn with a score by Michael Friedman.
The story spanned over 75 years and three acts, following the growth of the characters in a post-apocalyptic radioactive world as they intertwined the Simpsons episode "Cape Feare" into their lives through memory, performance, and musical pageantry.
The first two acts focused on a group of survivors who turned into a theater troupe that performed Simpson episodes, from theme song to commercials. Amongst the characters throughout the first two acts Matt, played by Zachary Woodcock, and Gibson, played by Wiley Prior, truly brought the audience into the story with them. Woodcock's strong physicality as he acted out each Simpson character made him stand out in the dim light and simple set of the first act, designed by Gregory Alspaugh, Krys Allen, and Lindsay Poteet. Woodcock's dedication to the outward performance of his character, along with the struggles he had, created a complex and enthralling persona that you just wanted to know more about. Later in the play, Prior was able to expertly represent a character playing another character. He took Gibson and made him act in the Simpson performances. But rather than Prior acting like himself playing a character in a commercial he acted like Gibson playing a character in a commercial, showing a true understanding of the character.
The rest of the survivors didn't disappoint either. The second act's timing, 7 years after the first, was represented clearly through the relationship of the characters. It was easy to see how things had changed and the survivors had gotten closer as time went on. Their interactions showed a long friendship, ripe with struggle, and an understanding of each character's problems with the world they lived in.
The third act, set 75 years later, was introduced in an eerily captivating way. A member of the tech crew held a sign that said, "75 years later" on an almost empty stage but for four pillars with a head of each of the Simpsons family. The lighting was faintly blue, perhaps representing the growth of the radioactivity over the years that had passed. The act began with a large Greek Chorus style group, with togas and bright yellow masks, expertly designed by the costume and makeup crew of Lia LeViner, Emelia Cardon, Emily Wartel, and Emma Febbraro. The group chanted and sang as they filled the space. After them, four other yellow masked people arrived, though these were different, each had a unique mask representing a member of the Simpsons family. The highlight of the act was halfway through, when the character Mr. Burns, played by Carter Elliff, entered. Represented by a yellow mask with a long yellow nose Elliff immediately captivated the audience with his comical phrasing and fantastic physical presence.
Each aspect of this play whisked the audience away into this unique world that left you unable to look away, waiting for what was next.
Westfield High School
What do you get when you cross the fall of human civilization with countless pop culture references??? If you said, "The greatest, most chaotic mashup of all time," you would be on the right track; however, the true answer lies within Hayfield Secondary School's "thunkingly" captivating production of Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play.
Written by Anne Washburn and premiering in 2012, the dark comedy told the story of how catastrophe sparked the post-apocalyptic plight of six survivors, each of its three acts highlighted a unique layer of the plot: community in act one, storytelling in act two, and absolute anarchy in act three. An attempt to reconstruct an iconic episode of The Simpsons (complete with advertisements and all) encouraged the misfits to establish a Theatre Troupe, and together they tried to learn to coexist and embrace their new reality. What could possibly go wrong? Hint: Literally everything.
Demonstrating exceptional versatility, the cast and crew's commitment to telling a cohesive story made sense of the show's nonsensical facade. The result: a masterfully crafted performance that reflected profound passion and ingenuity, exemplified in the crew's attention to detail and the actors' collective ability to balance comedy and complexity throughout entire acts.
Encapsulating a range of intensity while maintaining fluidity, individuality, and endurance, the Theatre Troupe ensemble commanded the spotlight (or more fittingly, the firelight). In one of their commercials (brimming with "BATH NOISES"... literally), the actors effortlessly executed the intricacies of the scene; from Gibson's (Wiley Prior) integration of physical and verbal storytelling techniques to Quincy's (Emma Febbraro) application of various inflections to create an illusion of depth, authenticity was evident in every interaction. Welcoming the audience into their dysfunctional family by the end of act two, the Theatre Troupe sets the stage for a happily ever after… NOT!
Enter: Act 3–which illustrated that a lot can happen in 75 years. From the emergence of a masked Greek chorus cult to what can aptly be described as a crossover edition of The Simpsons and Star Wars, the fever dream foreshadows "the end of everything." Amidst the show's chaotic culmination, Bart (Ror Allenbaugh) showcased tremendous vocal technique in various musical numbers, Itchy and Scratchy (JD Holland and Zoe Toomer) charmed the audience with their comedic presence during a daring lightsaber duel, and Mr. Burns (Carter Elliff) lightened the intense plot with his unwavering sarcastic humor.
Immersing the audience in the post-apocalyptic universe without diverting attention from the plot, the crew implemented various technical elements in a minimalistic yet comprehensive approach. From an array of whimsical props–including countless individually-crafted masks to an arsenal of lightsabers– (managed by Emma Moulin, Amari Mealy, Sam Rutledge, and Makenna G. Gillen) to the atmospheric lighting design (employed by Gregory Alspaugh and Lillian Satterlee), every detail reflected the eccentric nature of the production. Additionally, utilizing an unconventional space was only fitting to further reinforce the absurdity of the script; the converted black box theatre (designed and constructed by Krys Allen, Lindsay Poteet, Norah Nijbroek, and the Dramahawks Set Crew) cultivated an ominous aura, physical proximity, and emotional intimacy with the cast.
By its captivating yet convoluted conclusion, Hayfield Secondary School's dynamic production of Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play demonstrated that we are all connected by The Simpsons… Or perhaps that there was beauty within the chaos; in the words of Bart, "Now that I've lost everything, all I have is everything."