Kennesaw State University Department of Theatre and Performance Studies to Present “Everybody”

students rehearsing on stage
Students in "Everybody" rehearse on stage in the Stillwell Theater. 

New take on 15th century morality play, “Everybody” asks what happens when Death shows up unexpectedly

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 19, 2021) — The Department of Theatre and Performance Studies (TPS) asks what might happen when Death shows up unexpectedly and tells Everybody his time is up. “Everybody,” running October 26-31, is Branden-Jacob Jenkins’ audacious riff on the 15th century morality play, “Everyman.” Everyman has been called to give an account of his life, but he can’t give an account, and he can’t take his worldly goods with him. “Everybody” is a mirror image of “Everyman,” but set in today’s modern world. 

TPS professor and director Amanda Washington explains, “A morality play happened in the medieval times. It was a play that had a moral easy enough for the church congregation to understand: if you are a good person, when you die, you get into heaven.” Actor Rich Gibson says that the play “asks questions of the audience as to what is truly important in life for them. This play raises death’s conscience in the audience’s mind.”

However, audience members looking for the Grim Reaper may not recognize Death in "Everybody," nor Evil, or Love, based upon the interesting costume designs by Summer Jack. 

costume sketches
Love, Death, and Evil Costume Sketches by Summer Jack

The dramatic set, conceived by TPS professor and resident designer Ming Chen, looks very much like Stonehenge, and it’s intentional. Washington says the set is “symbolic of structures that are put up in our lives, monuments that matter the most to us. But when it comes time for us to die, we can’t take those things with us; we can only take love with us.”

image of stonehenge
The set design by Ming Chen mirrors Stonehenge.
A finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize, the play is rich in quality, and “while thought-provoking, is also filled with many funny moments as the character Everybody tries to recruit people to go with him and Death to answer to God as to why they have lived their life the way they have,” adds Gibson. 

Actor Jacob Craig hopes that everyone in the audience will take something away from the play. “We all have our time here on this earth, and then we don’t, so it’s important to be conscious of the way you interact with people.” 

Actor Zach Tellez says that audience members will enjoy the performance because “it is absolutely ridiculous and the best of times. It does make you think, but it gives you the space to breathe and laugh through it.” 

The cast of nine includes five characters who aren’t sure which role they will be playing; each night, the cast selection is done by lottery on stage, in front of a live audience. The cast won’t know who is playing which support roles (the “Somebodies”) until they are on stage. Washington gave each student a heads-up on which night they were playing the lead, to allow family members and friends to come that evening. However, it’s a wild card for all roles on closing night. Each actor must know the other’s lines.

Gibson has done the math; he says that “the audience will see one of 120 different possibilities of casting. Because of this format, each Somebody must memorize 85% of the of the entire script to be prepared to play any role. It is quite a challenge!” 

This production may be a challenge for the actors, but audiences will enjoy it, even as it reminds them “to put into focus what we hold near and dear,” notes Washington. It’s not all reflective and pensive, though. She was surprised by “how funny it is when it’s actually being performed. On paper it’s very dramatic, but it’s actually pretty hysterical.” 

Tickets for “Everybody” are $12-$20. To buy tickets, please visit arts.kennesaw.edu.

--Kathie Beckett

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