By Brendan Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Michael Rau
Stanford University, Department of Theater and Performance Studies
February 27-29 and March 5-7, 2020
Working on Everybody at the side of Michael Rau was one of best opportunities I have ever been afforded. This play required an especially unconventional rehearsal process because the roles were determined by lottery every night. We did not know who was going to play who, and thus the most we could do was do our own random lottery at each rehearsal. With 6 Somebodies and 5 possible roles at each performance, there were 720 possible shows that could happen.
I believe that I fell in love with this show because of its subtle mockery of life and death. The main character, Everybody, had to work through the acceptance of death by interacting with characters such as Friendship, Kinship, Cousin, Stuff, and more. By being provided these themes, I was able to play around what the definition of death really is. Is it the moment the last breath escapes? Is it the moment you become aware that you are inevitably going to pass away? Or do we start dying the second we are born because our timer already begins running out? I discovered the moments between the lines, between the scenes. I learned to appreciate the silences and the darkness in a production. I adapted to the purpose of set and how that adds equal symbolic meaning to the play. Using a turntable as the stage elevated the emotion to an unparalleled level. The falling walls created an unexpected awareness of other bodies in the room as the fourth wall was literally broken.
I loved the people and materials I was gifted to work with, and unfortunately the last performance was cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions. In light of the pandemic, this play took on a more serious meaning despite the overarching humor. The concept of death was more tangible than ever, and members of the audience would undoubtedly be thinking about the themes of Everybody in the months to come as they heard more about the pandemic through the media. It was the job of the creative team and the actors to present this awareness to them.