Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play is the current project on director Kristin L. Schoenback’s itinerary. Looking at the past couple of projects on her resume should be enough to get anyone excited at the production running through Saturday, February 24.
A third year M.F.A. graduate student in directing, Schoenback has shown a remarkable aptitude for storytelling in the modern world.
Entering the last weekend of performances for Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, we take a brief look at Schoenback’s directorial experiences from only this academic year.
In fall 2017, Schoenback directed Ellen McLaughlin’s Oedipus, an adaptation of the classic Greek tragedy penned by Socrates, which inspired millennia of artistic and philosophical discussions. McLaughlin’s adaptation took much from the many versions of Socrates’s tragedy to create a new story, one with beautiful language and pointed, timeless storytelling. For the Illinois State University production, Schoenback took things even further.
Motivated by the political turmoil of the Syrian refuge crisis and modern deliberation on immigration, the show took a somewhat modern look at the classic, where kings and queens wear dresses and shirts with ties, and the citizens wear clothes not dissimilar to what you would find in a thrift store. With as much of a step forward in time, Schoenback took one step back to introduce an element of classical Greek performance: music. Working with School of Music student Christian Larios, the ensemble’s lines were crafted into beautiful works of choral odes, conveying emotion in a primal and connective way that language alone cannot.
Then over winter break, Schoenback attended and competed in the Kennedy Center American Theater Festival in Indianapolis. There, directors were asked to choose from a selection of scenes, each containing particular directorial challenges. With a selection from A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Schoenback worked with acting students in the School of Theatre and Dance and uniquely solved staging challenges while bringing the complicated relationships of the piece to life. Winning the Stage Directors and Choreographers Fellowship, Schoenback will attend the national competition in Washington, D.C., this April.
All of her work so far culminates in the current production of Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play. In the play, a small group of survivors of an almost apocalyptic event find themselves falling upon storytelling to survive in this dismal landscape. Throughout each act, the story advances through time, to show these stories and the evolution of their shape immediately after the event, seven years after, and 75 years after.
The show, a difficult piece that changes drastically for each segment, could be daunting for any director, but Schoenback has proven her ability to handle impressive storytelling.
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play will run through February 24, with shows nightly at 7:30 p.m. at Westhoff Theatre.
For tickets or more information, please contact the College of Fine Arts Box Office, which is located in the Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts and is open 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday, at (309) 438-2535, or purchase tickets online by visiting ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Free performance parking is available in the School Street Parking Deck in spots 250 and above, at 400 West Beaufort Street in Normal.