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An Unconventional Play Explores the Meaning of Life

Presented by the University of Idaho Department of Theatre Arts, "Everybody" by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a morality play about what it means to live, what it means to die, and the journey in between.

Written by Branden Jacob-Jenkins, the play was a 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist and is a modern adaptation of the fifteenth-century morality play, "The Summoning of Everyman," one of the earliest known plays in the English language.

Morality plays offered meaning in God’s world and by staging them outside of the church it reinforced the idea that God was not only found in hallowed halls, but everywhere.

A Saucy Adaptation of Heaven, Hellfire and Humanity

While "Everybody" is based on an old play, its themes ring true to our current cultural zeitgeist with provocative moments and good old-fashioned debauchery. This is not a play for children, but at its heart, the message is positive.

“'Everybody' strives to remind audiences that humanity is the thread that links us all,” said KT Turner, a Master of Fine Arts candidate at University of Idaho and director of the play.

“We’re living in a time where we are so very divided. We’re scared and everything is a touch uncertain. This story reminds us of our humanity, of our strength, and of all the things that connect us,” she said.

A Unique Show Every Performance

The play is unique in that it uses a lottery system to choose roles for every performance, so no two shows are ever alike. The character of “Everybody” is selected from a group of “Somebodies” by lottery at the beginning of the play. The other “Somebodies” are also selected by chance to take up other roles in the play. This lottery system symbolizes the randomness of life and death. As “Everybody” journeys through life's choices, the audience is brought along to decipher what it is to be human.

The cast includes Kalyssa Montoya, Hannah Verdi, Luke McGreevy, Payton Edmonds, Anthony Kirby and Emma Von Till, all students within the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences; Tanya Thompson, Carly McMinn and Laurel Joy, Master of Fine Arts candidates in the Department of Theatre Arts; David Harlan, an alumni of U of I Theatre Arts; and Chloe Forsberg, daughter of cast member, Laurel Joy.

Behind the scenes, an artistic team is creating the look of the world that the cast will inhabit. Even with "Everybody" being a livestream Zoom production, great thought and care are taken to tell the story visually through scenic design, costumes, lights, sound and props. All work together to reinforce director Turner’s vision.

The design team includes Brindle Brundage, Michele Dormaier, Rio Spiering, Andrew Yoder, Payton Edmonds, Hadley Cabito, Emily Romanoski, Ari Burns, Cynthia Ball and Kevin Russell.

“This play is so important,” said Turner. “It’s about diversity and love and the journeys we take. It’s about digging deep and learning about ourselves. It’s about understanding that everyone else is on their own journey that is very similar to our own. Even though we don’t know what happens when we reach the destination, we’re all on our way.”

This production is intended for mature audiences and contains adult language and situations.

Article by Princess Kannah, BFA candidate in Performance
Department of Theatre Arts
Published February 2021

Behind the Scenes of "Everybody"

The Show Must Go On - a 38 second look

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