I don’t remember when or what class it was in, but I do remember reading the 16th century morality play Everyman in one of my undergrad classes and thinking how interesting it was and wondering if it would translate well to modern day. The BYU TMA department turned that curiosity into reality this weekend with their production of a new adaptation, Everyone written by playwriting senior Ty Hawton. This production is directed, designed, and performed by an all female production team and cast.
In her director’s note, Megan Sanborn Jones speaks to the urgency that many of us have felt over the past year as we try to go about lives while wondering how closely death may be following. Towards the beginning of the play a line is spoken, “We must all face death sooner or later in life. How prepared are you?” What a question. Prior to this pandemic, how many of us would even have had this question cross our minds? For me, it’s something that I often think about, having lost my father at the age of 18. But for those who haven’t encountered a death of a family member or close friend, has it ever crossed your mind?
The design of this production is so aesthetically pleasing and seamlessly brings the audience into the world of the play from the world of their home around them. Particularly the videos, music, and images in interludes throughout the play, with scenes evoking personal memories, give even more depth to this piece and its world. It doesn’t matter that it is streamed virtually rather than performed in the traditional auditorium setting. The world of the play feels so genuine and real, making it significantly more personal and allowing audience members to put themselves in the play of Everyone without a second thought. As a dramaturg I can’t miss recognizing the amazing work done by Lillian Bills. To learn more about the creation of this production and some history behind the 16th century play Everyman, visit 4th Wall Dramaturgy, read the study guide in the program, and visit @ExploringEveryman on Instagram.
Of course it wouldn’t be a performance without the people on stage (screen) performing. Bills mentions in the program, “Theater artist Jacqueline Lawton says, ‘Theatre is understanding the human condition and gaining empathy. It is seeing who we were, who we are, and imagining who we can be.’ This production of Everyone seeks to do just that through the talents of diverse women of different shapes, heritages, and ages. While you may not be on screen, we hope that you can recognize a part of yourself regardless.” While I can’t speak for every audience member that sees Everyone, I can say for myself that the diverse women performing in this production displayed to me the true meaning of “everyone” and I absolutely felt a piece of myself in the performance. I closed out of the tab on my computer with tears in my eyes at this amazing and moving piece. There is not one performer that stands out over the others. There is not one design element that is more prominent. Every moving part of this show is magnificent. I wish this performance was running longer and that everyone I know would take the time to see it. It is that important. Remember, “it is never too late to be kind.”
Everyone closes tonight (March 13, 2021), streaming at https://tma.byu.edu/Everyone.