by Mr. Burns Dramaturg Shannon Heibler
The end of Forward Theater Company’s season is coming, and with it, the end of the world. Well, more specifically, what comes after the end of the world… But either way, what can you do?
My name is Shannon Heibler and I have the great pleasure of serving as dramaturg for Forward’s upcoming production of Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, the end of our 2015-2016 season. As dramaturg, I’m kind of a really specific historian or researcher, learning everything I can about the world of the play so I can be a living, breathing, talking Wikipedia page during work on the production. I love researching things I know virtually nothing about! It also helps that I’m a big ol’ Simpsons nerd.
But don’t let that worry you. While Mr. Burns explores the need for storytelling after the end of civilization as we know it by way of The Simpsons, you don’t need to be an expert. You don’t even need to have seen it! It will all unfold before you in the Playhouse. (But if you really feel like getting cozy with the source material, check out Season 5, Episode 2, “Cape Feare.” It’s available on the first disc of season five via Netflix or the library, or with your cable subscription on the FX.com Simpsons World app – but it’s really not necessary). While I’ve tasked myself with rewatching the first 10 seasons to prepare, I’ve found myself focusing on the What Ifs. What if we did lose electricity as we know it forever? What if the world ended? What if all the pop culture I know and love was suddenly, ostensibly gone, and we all started over again with stories around a fire? The internet has a lot of information on the end of the world, and it is terrifying.
I’ve gotten to know a lot of possible scenarios for how the world might end and the best I can tell you is that I am not prepared. I don’t have a basement stocked with non-perishables. I don’t have cold weather camping gear. I can’t farm or hunt or even carry heavy things (probably a useful skill, right?) and I really like my creature comforts. The world the characters of Mr. Burns survive in is harrowing and I’m a 21st Century kind of gal. Even the fact that I’ve been Googling “how to build shelter” or “what if there’s no power” or “how much First Aid knowledge is enough First Aid knowledge” leads me to believe I won’t be anyone’s first draft pick for post-Apocalypse survival teams. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve buried myself in books, too, but something about the apocalypse tells this glasses wearer it will be a bit of a Twilight Zone scenario. But if you need someone to reenact Homer Simpson’s Missing-the-Chili-Cookoff Dance or sing the entire score from Oh, Streetcar! (Season Four’s musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire – really worth checking out), or heck, even just being able to recount the plotlines of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas (spoiler alert: at least one child was switched at birth), I might be of use for a laugh. And Mr. Burns makes me hopeful that we’ll need those skills too.
But I might start stocking up on bottled water and beef jerky anyway. And waterproof matches. And a compass. And an axe. And… well, a lot of things.
Just in case.