The Missouri State University Department of Theatre and Dance is back in the game with its first in-person production this year!
That’s right! The spring 2021 Mainstage season is opening with live performances of Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins! It is a morality play described by Dr. Kyle A. Thomas, director of this production, as “about facing the realities and anxieties of mortality as a way to address the biggest questions about life and living. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins adapted the play from the medieval play, Everyman, but he takes a decidedly more humorous and broadly philosophical approach to those existential questions that all people ponder at some point in their life.” Differences from this version and the original include the “dramatic structure of the play and several of its characters follow, roughly, with the source material. And, while the play still has a theological ‘flavor’ based in Christianity, there’s significantly more room for exploring the beliefs, traditions, and stories of other faiths and practices concerned with the hereafter. Probably the biggest difference is that the play is written in vernacular prose rather than poetic verse, like the original.”
This is sure to be an exciting production leaving you pondering life’s biggest questions and wanting more!
Let’s take a little behind-the-scenes look at the rehearsal process with some interviews from Dr. Thomas and two of his cast members:
Continuing with Dr. Thomas, when asked what drew him to this play specifically and why he chose to direct it, he stated, “As a medievalist and a theatre artist, my work is centered on re-invigorating medieval plays for modern audiences. Everything about Everybody captures the aims of my professional efforts. It’s such a joy to be working on a show that has deep roots in medieval drama but utilizes modern techniques and approaches to make the material resonate with audiences today.” Dr. Thomas also has a notably diverse cast, which is as important as ever if western theatre is to continue progressing away from its ethnocentric roots. When asked about his casting decisions, he stated, “Casting was difficult but very exciting! This play requires a strong ensemble of five actors at its core. Because this is very much a play with themes and ideas rooted in the human experience with our own mortality—something we all grapple with—I thought it best to reflect as much humanity in the casting as possible. So, I made an effort to ensure that our production truly presented humanity in as broad an approach as possible.”
We also interviewed one of Everybody‘s leads Liam Smith, featured in the rehearsal photographs, who is playing God, Usher, and Understanding. He stated his characters all have a unique relationship with each other and the audience as “God is referred to a lot but never actually comes in contact with the characters Everybody and Understanding, and Usher acts like a guide to not only Everybody but the audience.” When asked what it was liking working on his first Mainstage here at Missouri State, he said it was “definitely a new experience for me. The process went by much faster than I thought it would- one minute we are doing a read-through, and the next we are a week before opening. I learned a lot from this experience very quickly.” His favorite part of the rehearsal process included “diving into the philosophical background that comes with the show.”
Our final interview was with sophomore B.F.A. Acting major Josie Ramsdell, playing the character Love. She described her character as “a self-assured, playful, and demanding being that needs to feel desired and sought for in order to establish true connection to someone, in this case Everybody. There is no room for pride in Love‘s relationships with others, and the steps she takes to strip someone of their pride/ego serve to fully connect another being to herself. Love is definitely a sharp character in that her intentions are cut and to the point.” When asked about her experience in her first Mainstage, she gave an absolutely inspiring answer stating that, “It’s been a very fulfilling experience working on this production with Dr. Thomas, Director, and Delaney, Assistant Director. My experience up until this point had been with various student productions, so I didn’t know what to really expect when we started the rehearsal process. The exercises we do in rehearsal are quite unconventional especially compared to ‘standard’ actor training, but in my opinion, they have helped tremendously in understanding my character. It’s also a fantastic cast filled with incredible people who I look forward to seeing every day, so that definitely helps. I didn’t know how much I missed being in this setting until I started getting back into the swing of things, but along with that, I also had some fear about coming back to the stage after my transition. I really love meeting and establishing friendships with new people, but there’s always that underlying anxiety that goes along with that as a trans person. As we got into things, that fear was fortunately washed away. Every person in this production has been fantastic and has made me feel really comfortable with my identity on stage which has brought me a lot of joy.”
Philosophy, Joy, Love, Understanding- what more could anybody want in a theatre production?
All of this and more runs *Wednesday, April 21st, Thursday the 22nd, Saturday the 24th, and Sunday, the 25th with performances starting at 6:00pm Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday and at 2:00pm on Sunday.
All performances will be held on M.S.U.’s North Mall stage directly north of Plaster Student Union with free attendance.
*Performance dates are subject to change in the case of inclement weather.