Guilford theater students to debut new play, “Everybody”

Stage manager and senior Alex Conkright (center), sophomore Mariana Silva Posada, (left) who plays Cousinship and first-year Matilda Kennamer, (right) who plays Kinship, rehearse for the play.”//Photo by Julia Martins de Sa/The Guilfordian

What does humanity value most in life? Is it family? Friendship? Material possessions?

The Guilford College theater department resolves to evaluate this question in their upcoming production of “Everybody.” Written by Branden Jacob-Jenkins, “Everybody” is a morality play in which God, horrified with his creations, tasks Death with gathering Everybody so that humanity can plead their case.

Most characters in the play are the embodiments of concepts. In addition to Death and Everybody, actors will portray entities like Friendship, Kinship, Sympathy and Stuff.

“Everybody represents every human on earth, which was a little hard for character development,” said junior Max Shumate, who plays Everybody. “I’ve really been playing (Everybody) as just me, and how I would truthfully respond to things. A lot of it was very personal, actually, which is interesting because you don’t have a lot of opportunities to do that as an actor. It’s very open to interpretation.”

Throughout the play, Everybody struggles to find someone or something that is willing to face the end with them.

“Everybody begs Death to let them bring someone along with them so that they’re not alone. It’s scary, the idea of having to die alone,” said senior Laura Navey, who portrays the character Death along with being the play’s costume designer and supervisor.

“Everybody” was based upon the 15th century morality play “Everyman.” Along with the introduction and removal of several characters, most of the original play’s Catholic themes have been phased out in Jacob-Jenkins’ efforts to reinvent and modernize the play.

“The original play was a morality play and propaganda for the church,” said first-year Ally Thring, who plays Understanding and the Usher. “Branden Jacob-Jenkins took that and turned it into a think-piece about how death is so universal and how we’re all going to die, but everyone is going to experience it differently.”

Navey found “Everybody” interesting from the point of view of a religious studies major.

“I’m so lucky to be apart of this play my senior year. Morality plays are so fascinating to me. They’re absolutely fantastic,” said Navey. “I can take so many perspectives looking at the texts, as an actor, as a costume designer and as a religious studies major. It’s a lot of fun because there is so much going on.”

“Everybody” will be uniquely designed. The set is designed to look like an old waiting room, complete with real coffee stains on the walls. Shumate, who is also the assistant designer, is creating a dress for the character Stuff that will be an entirely handmade costume piece.

“We tried to skirt the fine line between giving characters costumes that represented them without being too obvious, because the thing about a lot of these things is you don’t really notice them when they’re there,” said Navey. “For the most part, we tried to make them look like Guilford College students.”

“Everybody” is being directed by Beth Ritson as her first Guilford production.

“(Beth) is a perfect fit for Guilford,” Navey said. “She’s so much fun and very willing to experiment if things aren’t quite right.”

Cast members have cited the play’s relatable subject matter as being one of the most important aspects of “Everybody.”

“We’re all very human. That’s what I want people to take away at the end,” Navey said. “You’ll walk away thinking, ‘That was an experience we’ve all had, and fears we’ve all had.’ Maybe it will bring people together a little more. It’s a work in empathy.”

Shumate believes audiences will find “Everybody” to be a thought-provoking play.
“It’s a very artistic piece in that this is our interpretation,” Shumate said. “Death is hard to capture because those who experience it can’t talk about it. There are definitely going to be some moments when the audience has to do some thinking.”

Thring appreciates the way Jacob-Jenkins was able to merge humor and sorrow in his script, as well as the play’s universal nature.

“There are moments of this show that are just spirals of despair, but at the same time, it’s so funny. There’s so much humor in the play, and so many F-bombs dropped,” Thring said. “We deal with these huge concepts like death and loneliness, and how we go through all these things alone, but we’re also together. Obviously some things change over time, but those concepts never will.”

“Everybody” will open on April 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Sternberger Auditorium, with its last performance on April 15. Tickets are available in Founders Hall and online.