Shakespeare Theatre Company will begin its 2019/20 Season with the 2018 Pulitzer Prize Finalist EVERYBODY by Obie Award-winner, MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient and Washington, D.C.-native Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon, Gloria). This “fun and breezy” (Broadway World) comedy about life (and death) will play at the Lansburgh Theatre (450 7th Street NW) from October 15 through November 17, 2019.
The inspiration for Everybody is the medieval morality play Everyman, in which Death asks the title character to prepare for the grave and afterlife. “Everyman was still performed in Shakespeare’s formative years. I’ve no doubt that he saw the play, and that it made a huge impact on him. So much of Shakespeare’s writing life begins here,” suggests Artistic Director SIMON GODWIN. “Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has taken this medieval work – with its ageless themes of how we approach life and deal with death—and created a fun, lively, and extremely contemporary fable for our moment. I wanted to welcome everybody to STC with Everybody.”
“Branden is known for his searing reconstructions of dusty plays, and here he uses some of that brilliant ability to make the irrelevant relevant again in a hyper-personal and theatrically expansive way,” explains Director WILL DAVIS, former artistic director of American Theater Company in Chicago, who is making his STC debut. Davis is well-known in D.C. for several previous productions at Olney Theatre Center including the Helen Hayes Award-winning Colossal and Helen Hayes-nominated Evita.
In the allegorical style of morality plays, most of the characters personify abstract ideas. “An actor stands up and says: ‘Hi! I’m Time!’” explains Davis. “It’s absurd and wonderful, modern and ancient in all the ways our best stories always are.” Beloved comedic actress and STC Affiliated Artist NANCY ROBINETTE (The Comedy of Errors) will join the cast as Death. AHMAD KAMAL (Richard the Third, Gloria) returns to STC to play the role of Love. CLARE CARYS (A Christmas Carol) and YONATAN GEBEYEHU (I Thought I Would Die, But I Didn’t), both in their STC debuts, will play Time and God, respectively.
But in Jacob-Jenkins’ most exciting and inventive revision, the roles of most of the cast, including the titular Everybody, will be assigned each performance by a lottery system. As the show begins, the “Somebodies” line up on stage and a lottery ball assigns their role for that performance. Making their STC debut in the to-be-cast roles of “Somebody” are ALINA COLLINS MALDONADO, who recently starred in BLKS at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, AVI ROQUE who previously played the role of “Love” in California Shakespeare Theatre’s production of the play, and KELLI SIMPKINS, known as an original creator/performer of The Laramie Project. Returning STC “Somebodies” include ELAN ZAFIR (Romeo & Juliet, FFA and mainstage) and AYANA WORKMAN (Free For All Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet). By chance, luck, or fate, they may play Everybody or attributes such as Friendship, Kinship, or Beauty.
The actors must be prepared for 120 casting permutations. The chances of having the same exact configuration of actors and roles for two performances is approximately 27%, the chances of a lucky actor playing the same role twice in a row is only 4%, and the chances of one actor not playing one of the changing roles at all during the entire run is 0.0003% (so they all better be off-book!)
Shakespeare Theatre Company will offer two special lotteries to help promote the show: One lottery will allow patrons the opportunity to pay just $20 for their tickets. Access and details for this lottery will be announced in September on the show page. The second lottery is for audience members attending the show who correctly predict the evening’s cast and their corresponding roles. Winners will receive free tickets for either another unique performance of Everybody or another show in the 2019/20 season.
“Everybody beautifully pits the sacred against the profane in just the way we want on stage,” says Davis. “Everything seems very important and at the same time nothing seems to matter, and we’re asked to reflect on that as an infinite contradiction.”
Godwin concludes: “This is a very old story told anew. This is what we do at Shakespeare Theatre Company. We remake the classics for our times.”
Tickets($35-$120) are currently on sale at http://www.shakespearetheatre.