Post–nuclear fallout with a dark comedic flavor and a “Simpsons” twist

By: Lindsey White,  Department of Performing and Media Arts
April 13, 2018


In the not-so-distant future, survivors of a global nuclear disaster band together in grassroots theatrical troupes. For the characters of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, it’s not entertainment at stake, but survival: theirs is a reality in which remembered dialogue from The Simpsons is traded as currency, and where pop songs and commercial parodies provide the only emotional connections to a world that no longer exists.

Directed by Jayme Kilburn, a PhD student in Cornell University’s Department of Performing and Media Arts, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play runs at Cornell’s Kiplinger Theatre in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts April 27–28 and May 4–5.

Mr. Burns is dark, witty, and powerful. It is the type of show that lingers,” says Kilburn.

Presented in three acts, Mr. Burns takes the audience from the immediate aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe, in which survivors distract themselves by trying to recall The Simpsons episode “Cape Feare”; to seven years in the future; to 75 years after that, at which point The Simpsons reenactments more closely resemble a Greek myth than an irreverent cartoon.

For cast member Carley Robinson ’21, Mr. Burns is about “the power of theatre and storytelling as an ever-changing form of history. When the world falls apart, theatre is what keeps us together. It's what keeps us human.”

Mr. Burns, a post-electric play is co-sponsored by Cornell’s Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, Cornell Council for the Arts, the DG Jared Foundation, and Nancy and Morey Storck. The play features a score by Michael Friedman and lyrics by Anne Washburn.

Performances of Mr. Burns are in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts’ Kiplinger Theatre April 27–28 and May 4–5 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee performance on May 5 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students, seniors, and the Cornell community, and are available at or at the Schwartz Center box office Monday–Saturday, 1:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts is located at 430 College Avenue in Ithaca.

Klarman Hall at sunset