by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by Rudy Ramirez
Oct 15, 16, 21, 22 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 23 at 2 p.m.
In the Rand Theater, located in the Randolph W. Bromery Center for the Arts at UMass
"You're dying, Everybody. And you're dying alone."
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ play, written before the pandemic, proves a prophetic boon in bringing an audiences an opportunity to deal with the fear and grief that we will probably still carry long after we put away our masks. Everybody offers a funny and cathartic confrontation with Death (who is just trying to do their job, after all) through an adaptation of a 14th century morality play. Death comes for Everybody on what should have just been a fun night at the theater, and Everybody must confront the limits of friendship, family love, material comfort, and the human body itself in an attempt to determine the one thing that they can bring with them as they leave this world.
Content advisory: Strong language, discussions of death
Tickets are $15 general admission, $5 youth, students, and seniors, and can be purchased in advance online at the Fine Arts Center Box Office or by calling 1-413-545-2511.
Before you purchase tickets, please read our Patron COVID Safety Policy to ensure you are prepared. Patrons who are unable to meet the requirements WILL be turned away at the door.
To read our online program, scroll down, or click on the section you wish to view:
Director: Rudy Ramirez
Dramaturg: Natasha Hawkins
Scenic Designer: Anya Klepikov
Lighting Designer: Ben Stanton
Costume Designer: Tess Beckwith
Sound Designer: Amy Altadonna
Associate Sound Designer: Eddie Pizzano
Voice and Speech Coach: Elisa Gonzales
Stage Manager: Becca Cottrell
Assistant Directors: Natasha Hawkins and Pedro Eiras
Assistant Dramaturg: Taylor Lennon
Assistant Costume Designer: Malory Rojas Grillo
Assistant Lighting Designer: Hyejung Kang
Assistant Stage Managers: Sena Yacteen, Liv Darling, Ethan Lewis
Production Manager: Julie Fife
Technical Director: Michael Cottom
Costume Shop Manager: Kristin Jensen
Lighting Supervisor: Michael Dubin
Sound Supervisor: Amy Altadonna
Directing Advisor: Gilbert McCauley
Dramaturgy Advisor: Priscilla Page
Costume Design Advisor: Yao Chen
Lighting Design Advisor: Penny Remsen
Stage Management Advisor: Julie Fife
Ushers: Phoebe Bell, Aaron Mancaniello
Death: Kelvin Sisa
Time/Girl: Parker Traphagen
Love: Percival Hornak
Evil Deeds (Death/Time/Love Swing): Maryellen Tisdell
Somebodies (eligible to play Everybody):
Special thanks to: Sean Buenaventura
Associate Production Manager: Pedro Eiras
Scenic Construction Director: Brandon Hall
Scenic Artisan: Carl Bridge
Scene Shop Teaching Assistants: Drishti Chauhan, Morgan Shea
Scenic Charge Artist: Carl Bridge
Prop Master: Chenoa Albertson
Scene Shop Technicians: Jesse Ball, Lindsey Barrett, Sebastien Dresback, William Waisnor III, Isabella Vitti
Scene Shop Assistants: EMma Hagan, Jemma Kepner, Angela Kwebiiha, Arjun Misra, Kaliska Wiley
Deck Crew: Owen Cusick, Polina Kasyanova, Walt Manasse-Latham
Production Master Electrician: Robert Gaffney
Lighting Console Programmer/Operator: Kaiden Elison
Graduate Assistant: Hyejung Kang
Electrics Shop Assistants: Robert Gaffney, Elana Peisner, Sena Yacteen, Kaiden Elison, Anika Nayak, Liv Darling
Lighting Build Crew/ 361 Lab Participants: Tess Beckwith, Ulrika Brand, Zaria Cannon, Rebecca Cottrell, Ricky Cui, Lianna Fife Wiggall, Robert Gaffney, Jemma Kepner, Hanna Koczela, Fleur Kuhta, Walt Manasse-Latham, Anika Nayak, Sam Patterson, Caroline Richardson, Sarah Tonks
Sound Engineer: Eddie Pizzano
Board Operator: Uma Kasichainula
Sound Crew: Jesse Ball, Caleb, Kovalchik, Ethan Lewis
COSTUME AND MAKE-UP DEPARTMENT
Assistant Costume Shop Manager: Felicia Malachite
Production Assistants: Chenoa Albertson, Mallory Rojas Grillo, Emily Peck
Stitchers: Taylor Lennon, Kristen Mahone, Becca Cottrell
Stock Assistants: Jaime Woolcock, Kimberly Dy
Costume Build: Jordan Richo, Victoria Tavares, Zhu Mingyan, Yixuan (Katniss) Shi
Costume Crew Chief: Eloise Arnold
Costume Run Crew: Brian Her, JR Moreno, Itai Abramovich
Makeup Crew Chief: Lily Huff
Makeup Run Crew: Lily Huff, Michael O’Malley
PUBLICITY, HOUSE AND BUSINESS STAFF
Public Relations Director and House Manager: Anna-Maria Goossens
Public Relations and Front of House Assistant: Natasha Hawkins
Archival Photographer: Derek Fowles
Poster Design: Chenoa Albertson, from a concept by Natasha Hawkins
Box Office Manager: Arianna Morales
House and Publicity Crew: Tess Beckwith, Roxanne Edel, Julian Buitrago, Tiana DuViela, Hanna Jane Kilduff, Riley Gregoire, Sean Dsouza, Matthew Sucheki
Business Manager: Joanne Corbeil-Harper
Administrative Assistant: Bethany Sherwood
Department Chair: Harley Erdman
General Manager: Willow Cohen
EVERYBODY is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.
World Premiere produced by Signature Theatre, New York City (Paige Evans, Artistic Director; Erika Mallin, Executive Director; James Houghton, Founder)
PLAYWRIGHT BRANDEN JACOBS-JENKINS
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is an award-winning playwright. His plays An Octoroon (2014) and Appropriate (2013) won the Obie Awards for Best New American Play. Everybody was a finalist nominee for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Jacobs-Jenkins attended Princeton University, graduating with a degree in anthropology in 2006. In 2007, he graduated with a master’s in performance studies from NYU. During this time, he worked as an editorial assistant for The New Yorker and wrote his debut play Neighbors.
Jacobs-Jenkins then moved on to study in Berlin through the Fulbright Scholarship program where he wrote Appropriate (2013) and An Octoroon (2014). He returned to the U.S. to study at Julliard, worked at NYU as an adjunct and held residency at the Signature Theatre in NYC, where Everybody (2018) premiered.
Jacobs-Jenkins plays with the racial tropes that often come up in the history of Black theatre, namely minstrelsy. In his play Neighbors (2011), a Black family moves next door to a privileged Black professor, but the family appears in Black face. The loud Black family that moves next door to the perfect mixed race couple; we are seeing the family through their internalized racism. An Octoroon is a parody-like adaptation of a 19th century melodrama. In the play, a Black playwright plays a white slave owner after all the white actors refuse. An Octoroon critiques the use of the mixed race, white passing woman as a scandalous storytelling device while keeping the portrayal of the dark skinned, mammy in melodramatic works. Both of these plays lean into the stereotypes presented about Black people. Everybody focuses on race in a different way than Jacobs-Jenkins’ earlier work. His modern adaptation of the medieval Everyman adds dreaminess, a cathartic danse macabre and ... a lottery. Jacobs-Jenkins’ more inclusive Everybody makes sure to include ALL bodies, genders, races and sexualities, which is something we felt was very important to respect in our production. The play was not changed to “Everyone” but, Everybody. The form we take in our lifetime has a direct connection to our experiences in life and also how we will experience death. Fundamentally, Everybody is a play about death and, therefore, a play about life.
A NOTE FROM DIRECTOR RUDY RAMIREZ
WHY DO A COMEDY ABOUT DEATH IN THE MIDST OF A PANDEMIC?
We have entered a time in our history when we are reestablishing our relationship with death. In many ways, we have come to understand the precariousness of life in a way much more familiar to the people of medieval Europe, who gathered together to watch plays about life, death and morality created by the church. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ play asks us to see how death plays out over different kinds of bodies, so that we can experience our profound differences with one another alongside our shared connection: that we will, in one way or another, come to an end. The fact that the play does this with a great sense of humor and a vivid theatricality makes it all the richer for our artists and audiences alike.
A NOTE FROM DRAMATURG NATASHA HAWKINS
The thought of doing a comedy about death in the middle of a pandemic at first feels unsettling. We are two years into having our lives changed forever. When would be a better time to talk about death than in the middle of a pandemic? As Black men and women are shot in the street, in their cars, in their homes because their skin color is threatening? For so many, death has never felt more imminent.
Everybody was created as a response to the medieval Everyman. Though the Catholic origins differ from the more secular views in Everybody, the fact that everybody must die remains the same. What Jenkins’ changes is the answer to the question, what do we bring to the grave when we die. Obviously nothing material, as is addressed in both versions. But what concepts stay with us and what do we leave behind? In Everyman, they bring their good deeds in order to be judged by God. Jacobs-Jenkins’ changes this. Not only must we address our fear of death and dying, but we must be more thoughtful of what we leave behind. All the love we shared with people and all the “evil shitty things” will stay with those we leave, at least for a while. The Usher said it best: “You know: just being nice to each other. For once. And I’m talking about Everybody.”
At the start of the play, the usher mentions the “Buddhist-ness” at the heart of the material. It may sound like a throwaway line. Just a joke. However, the Buddhist origins in Everyman, and therefore Everybody, are very real. In my dramaturgical research for Everybody, I focused on how different religions view death and dying, specifically the Buddhist interpretations. According to the Buddha, “reflection on death and impermanence is the key means towards awakening from the slumber of ignorance.” Ultimately, in order to accept our deaths, we must accept the notion that we are not an “isolated thing trapped inside its isolated self”, to borrow a quote from the play, but one part of a whole. Just like the Somebodies; they are all interconnected. The fate of one of them in the lottery each night will affect the fate of all of them. I think that is something this concept would be very useful for us in life as well.
LA DANSE MACABRE
La Danse Macabre (The Dance of Death) is a medieval motif portraying skeletons dancing around people of all walks of life. La Danse Macabre was used to illustrate that no matter who you were- nobility, merchant, peasant, child- your death was inevitable and unforeseeable. The images usually appeared in churches and graveyards in a comic strip like manner. Each person accompanied by death declined in nobility as the reader went from left to right. The most well-known productions of La Danse Macabre are by artist Hans Holbein.
Why does Jacobs-Jenkins add this? Everybody’s theme in the simplest terms is everybody dies, and that is the exact message behind La Danse Macabre. No matter what social station you are, Death is the great equalizer. La Danse Macabre serves as a transition for Everybody from denial to acceptance of their death. It also serves as a clever nod to the medieval period, in which the original Everyman was written.
In our interpretation of La Danse Macabre, the scrim, a black mesh overlay curtain used in theatre to dim light, is used to represent the veil of death. We use the scrim to separate Friendship, Cousin, Kinship, and Stuff and the audience from Everybody, who is temporarily in purgatory.
We also use the contrasting dance styles Butoh and Gaga. Butoh is a style of Japanese dance theatre innovated by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno in collaboration. The style was created in 1959, shortly after the events of World War II as a response to the bombs dropping in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Difficult to define, some of Butoh’s intentions are to portray distress and stray away from a fixed state of being. It has many variations, but usually includes slow deliberate movements that create a series of images on stage. Through still, gradual, and intentional dance, Butoh draws both the audience and the actor to pay attention to each specific movement. Practitioners and viewers often find themselves in a trance.
The dance style Gaga was created by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin in 1990, and involves free joyful dance inspired by what movements bring the dancer’s feelings to the forefront. It is often practiced without mirrors, audience, or planned choreography. Instead, practitioners must look inward to find inspirations behind their movements, exploring the range of bodily motion. The sustained movements of Butoh followed by the free-spirted Gaga represent Everybody coming to terms with their mortality.
Below is my interpretation of La Danse Macabre based on the framework of this production; La Danse Macabre de Tout le Monde, or Everybody’s Dance of Death.
Concept by Natasha Hawkins
Inspired by Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Dramaturg: Natasha Hawkins
Assistant Dramaturg & Photoshoot Lighting Designer: Taylor Lennon
Photographers: Natasha Hawkins & Liv Darling
Song: Sinnerman by Nina Simone