The Dramat presents “Everybody”, a love letter to the theater


At death’s door, what do people leave behind and what do they take with them? The Dramat’s latest piece, “Everybody,” seeks to answer that question while celebrating the theatricality of life in a fusion of comedy and mayhem.

“Everybody,” a play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, runs February 23-26 at the University Theater on York Street. The play, directed by Garrett Allen DRA ’24 and produced by Peter Li ’24, explores what happens at the end of life.

“The show reminds us that what we have in the end is love,” actor Sam Ahn ’24 said. “Because it’s cheesy, we sometimes overlook it and don’t necessarily live up to that cliché. But it’s a good reminder, especially at Yale, where it’s very go-go-go and everyone is always trying to move on to the next thing and do as much as they can. The show made me think about the best way I want to spend my time here – what will I remember, what will accompany me.

The show begins with five characters originally called “Somebodies”. God, a character in the play, decides that the Everybody character must die, so they send Death, one of their employees, to inform them of their impending doom. The Somebodies beg Death to be allowed to die alongside Everybody.

This is when a lottery takes place. Through a random draw conducted on stage each night, actors are assigned the five Somebodies roles, with one actor randomly selected for the role of Everybody and the others assigned to play the other four Somebodies: Kinship, Friendship, Cousinship and Stuff. . The character Everybody tries to convince the last four characters to die with them.

“The lottery is a direct representation of the randomness of chance, of life, of death,” Allen said. “At the same time, it’s a way of getting us, as an audience, to empathize with the people on stage. Since they are people like us, the idea that they are chosen at random and that they have to live this experience, it is as if we were chosen for anything.

Each show features a different permutation of the five roles, which means there can be 120 different variations of the show – with a catch. Each night of the Dramat’s production, with the playwright’s permission, the lottery is slightly modified to allow each cast member to play Everybody once.

According to Allen, because every performance is unique, “Everybody” leans into the ephemerality of theater. The audience sees it, then it disappears, but it continues to exist in the “hearts and minds” of viewers.

According to Li, this is when the show really begins. Everyone moves on stage to plead the four characters. For example, Everyone goes to their family and friends, represented by Friendship and Kinship, conducting conversations with these embodied abstract entities. The show aims to be universal, even in the language of the script. One technique is to use the word “slash”, which allows for broad representation of abstract concepts applicable to any member of the audience. Li provided the following example spoken by Friendship: “But don’t you also want to reduce screens reduce caffeine reduce alcohol reduce gluten reduce carbohydrates reduce red meat consumption reduce media consumption?”

“Whatever these concepts mean to anyone is up to their individual interpretation,” Li said. and kinship, etc. In this way, the specificity also comes from the actors themselves.

The characters embody the main qualities of each abstract concept. While friendship is different depending on which actor it’s randomly assigned to, the character is meant to be outgoing, friendly, and supportive – until everyone asks them to die. Kinship and cousin are members of the family; they are kind and caring and have a history with everyone. Things are the personification of all material possessions that everyone has accumulated throughout life. Li commented that Stuff had many “takes” on capitalism and the idea of ​​ownership.

The five Somebodies face a unique challenge in that they must memorize all the lines for every possible character. Actor Maxwell Brown’s approach in 25 to differentiating characters was to play with physique and voice, and to focus on listening and reacting to other actors on stage.

The play is made beautiful, according to Brown, due to the diverse cast of the production. Depending on different physical characteristics and racial origins, among other aspects, the lines will be received differently. Brown gave the example of a scene where a character says “I’m not even white!” You are white!”

In conversation with the production’s playwright, Allen was advised not to over-intellectualize the play, although it is very “heady” and deals with themes of mortality and morality. Allen is thrilled that the show creates an empathetic relationship between the audience and the Everyone character as they go through a journey that will eventually happen to everyone.

“One of the things I’ve been working on is thinking about how this piece feels beyond the intellectual, beyond the rational, but into a more visceral place based on feelings,” said Allen said.

The play is a contemporary adaptation of the 15th century morality play “Everyman”. A modification made by Jacobs-Jenkins was to replace the “Good Deeds” character with the “Love” character. According to Allen, this change was likely made to reflect the accessibility of love as an idea in modern times. They could be said to like a friend while expressing their love for a TV show, allowing love to take on various meanings.

“This idea of ​​love and what it means and what it feels like is such a powerful thing,” Allen said. “So I think hearing ‘Love’ as a character versus ‘Good Deeds’ makes a person of our time think very differently. [Love] can be internal or external.

Allen thinks the play is a love letter to actors, audiences and theater. For actors, the play offers a chance to live in the moment and come to the table as a human and an actor. This love letter extends to the idea of ​​theater in its honor to the lineage of telling stories about death and morality. Although the play is based on “Everyman”, Allen indicated that the Buddhist stories were among the earliest morality-themed works.

The show’s setting is a theatre, a choice described as minimalist and “meta”. In fact, in its original iterations, viewers were brought onto the stage. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this theatrical element could not be included.

“This game is a confrontation,” Allen said. “It asks us to look death in the face and think ‘What is my life, what am I doing living today in the present?’

Tickets can be reserved on the Yale College Performing Arts webpage for upcoming performances on February 23, 24, 25, and 26. A 75% capacity restriction is still in place, meaning around 300 tickets can be sold for each performance.




KAYLA YUP


Kayla Yup covers science and social justice with an interest in the intersections of humanities and STEM. She is in her first year of specialization in molecular, cellular and developmental biology and in the history of science, medicine and public health.