The world has become a strange place indeed when three Theatre Wire shows in the 2017/2018 season are about the collapse of civilization. Are they trying to tell us something? Count Zero author William Gibson attributes it to using the end of the world as a kind of universal shorthand for whatever we don’t want to happen. He writes, “We have very little control over anything much at all, individually, so fantasies of staving off the end of the world are fairly benign fantasies of increased agency.”
This year, we have three different versions of what the end could look like: as a pop song parody in District 13 Presents’ Mockingjay: The Musical – A Hunger Games Musical, a planet of android bodies in Nebula Company Theatre’s Down in the Uncanny Valley, and a pop culture investigation of The Simpsons in Little Mountain Lion’s Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play.
District 13 Presents returns to conclude its hit trilogy with Mockingjay: The Musical – A Hunger Games Musical. Katniss Everdeen is the reluctant leader of the districts as they try to overthrow President Snow and the Capitol—and she’s involved in a teen angst-filled love triangle. Is it a bleak future though? “There is a worry that our current fascination with reality television can lead to desensitization when it comes to fellow human beings,” Producer Mark Vandenberg says. “We long for the drama until … we start seeing people as merely pawns in a game for our entertainment. I would say that’s pretty bleak.” But Mockingjay mixes these warnings with some big laughs and songs from Adele, Ed Sheeran, and Taylor Swift.
Down in the Uncanny Valley takes place in 50 years and environmental conditions have encouraged people to upload their consciousness into robot bodies. The plot follows five entwined characters who are in different stages of experiencing the uploading or “transitioning” procedure. Some are for the procedure and some are against it. But why write a play about a post-apocalyptic world?, “Our current political and environmental climate is in so much dramatic flux that I think it is the responsibility of political writers to explore what our decisions now could mean for our near future,” playwright Mily Mumford explains. “In exploring the bleakness of these potential futures I think it’s also important to explore how the human condition persists and how these futures could still contain humour and beauty in their exploration.”
In Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, the end of the world means no power and no technology. A group of survivors spend the play in three parts, first by retelling an episode of The Simpsons, then rehearsing the same Simpsons episode to be performed, and finally, we see them in the post-electric future where our pop culture has been re-appropriated as a new society’s core mythos. According to Producer Matt Clarke, “The future here is bleak because it’s dangerous. … But the hope that it provides—the idea that as long as we are in touch with our core stories, and as long as we are sharing those stories with our community—we will survive.” Mr. Burns is debuting in Vancouver with emerging Director Madelyn Osborn and emerging Composer Katerina Gimon at the helm. Together they will show us the danger, grief, love, nostalgia, and community that can evolve when life as we know it stops.
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