The local theater scene buzzed with excitement as “Everybody,” the thought-provoking and innovative play by Braden Jacobs-Jenkins, took the spotlight. This modern rendition of the contemporary theatrical masterpiece has historically captivated audiences with its unique perspective on life, death and the human experience.
“Everybody” is a modern adaptation of the 15th-century morality play, “Everyman.” It invited theatergoers on an introspective journey that explores the fundamental questions of existence. Directed by Tracy Manning, artistic director of theatre arts, audiences could expect three evenings full of unique storytelling and powerful performances.
The central premise revolved around the character of “Everybody,” played by a different cast member at each performance.
This lottery-style casting choice was not only a creative twist but a thematic one, highlighting the common human experience. As “Everybody” navigated the inevitable journey toward death, they were joined by allegorical characters named Friendship, Kinship and Stuff.
Jacobs-Jenkins combined elements of humor, drama and philosophy to engage the audience on an emotional level. Each night, as a new actor took on the lead role of “Everybody,” the production carried a different energy, making every performance a one-of-a-kind experience.
Karis Bland, cast member and musical theatre major, explained the ins and outs of the lottery-style acting that was performed.
“At the beginning of the show, the cast members — there's five of us — don't know what role we're going to play,” Bland said, “Then once we’re on stage, we find out who's going to play which role for the rest of the show.”
The production team, including set designers, costume designers and lighting technicians, were also creative contributors, and worked to enhance the overall impact on the audience.
With all of these features at play, the show highlighted detailed costuming against a minimalistic set to emphasize the intensity of the character interactions. With many unexpected twists and turns, this production was a unique theatre experience.
Sophomore Gavin Kastner, who played the character “Everybody,” elaborated on the complexities of the play.
“I like that you could sit right next to someone during the play, and unless you know them, you'd never know that they're performing in it,” Kastner said.
In Taylor Theater’s “Everybody,” the audiences could expect to have no expectations when seeing this show. If an audience member attended twice, it was unlikely that they would see the same show. The production also featured familiar faces as guest cameos.
Hannah Wylie, assistant to the director, reflected on managing and preparing for the intricacies behind the acting.
“It's a huge challenge,” Wylie said. “It's probably some of the most difficult work these actors will have done at Taylor because they have to memorize most of the entire script. I think it's also a really interesting opportunity for viewers of the play because there are 120 possible variations of this play.”
The play challenged conventional notions of mortality, individuality and the human condition. Viewers were encouraged to reflect on their choices in life and how those choices have shaped their personhood. The play’s thought-provoking narrative and unconventional casting approach may very well have earned it a reputation as a must-see production.
“Everybody” is an experience that pushed the boundaries of traditional theater and invited audiences to confront the profound questions that define human existence.