Some people live off the theatre, while others hate it. Well, the Binghamton University theatre department’s production of “Everybody” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins might just convince those wary of the theatre to take an interest in it. “Everybody” premiers this Thursday, March 18 at 8 p.m. over Zoom. Each performance will be live and the performances will continue on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. until the final performance on Sunday, March 21. Tickets are available on the BU theatre department’s website.
Modeled on the 15th century morality play “Everyman” which has no confirmed author, this production of “Everybody” will have an usher explain its rich literary history to the audience right before the show. The morality play was written to include the audience into the production, meaning people sitting in the audience become part of the show. With current theatre restraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic, technical innovations were necessary to stay true to the author’s purpose. The play’s form may change in this adaptation, but not the content, as it follows the main character, Everybody, on their journey while they try to come to terms with death, and find a companion to go with them to meet “God.”
The script was written by Jacob-Jenkins as a dark comedy, featuring abnormal characters such as “Time,” “Friendship” and “Stuff.” Scenes shift between dream and reality as new characters are introduced, and Everybody reflects on what their life meant. Elizabeth Mozer, director of the play and an associate professor of theatre at BU, said the play will be enjoyable for audiences to participate in.
“I’ve so appreciated the laughter that comes from the play, so I’m hoping my audience can enjoy that as well,” Mozer said. “I think they can enjoy the uniqueness of the play. It’s gonna be somewhat thrilling, I think, and then the content of the play, about someone dealing with their imminent death and all the ways we resist [it]. So, I think it will offer an opportunity for self-reflection for each of us, in regard to our own personal relationship to death because, from what I hear it’s inevitable for each of us.”
The unique content of the show is complemented by the technical innovations of various staff and faculty members in adherence to COVID-19 guidelines. Each cast member has their own backdrop, lights and camera set up either in their bedrooms or in the private performance spaces on campus. They will connect to Zoom individually and the audience will be muted and asked to pin the show so one singular box will be enlarged on the screen. Within that larger space, actors’ boxes will move about, shifting from scene to scene.
Creating such a different production has allowed for new ideas and a more flexible cast. According to Mozer, production staff kept in mind the possibility of Wi-Fi failures or computer meltdowns and have two understudies for roles, creating a cast of 15 people. “Everybody” has become a larger production, with dexterity and over 30 people involved in the tech and crew side of things, bringing together lights, sets, costumes, planning outreach and overseeing sound to create a cohesive performance.
“I feel really grateful to the students who auditioned and who have worked so hard on the production,” Mozer said. “I’m just thrilled with their work, and thrilled with the work of my collaborators, and the design and tech team — both faculty and students. I’m really looking forward to sharing it with lots of people.”
Months of technical planning and long rehearsals have brought the words in “Everybody” to life. For those of us unfamiliar with plays and the theatre, this will be an entirely different experience. Just sit back, turn off your cell phones and enjoy the show.