Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
directed by KT Turner
dramaturgy by Ariana Burns
(Section of frontispiece from edition of Everyman published by John Skot c. 1530.)
Last night’s rehearsal included the scenes with Friendship and Stuff. Friendship in Everybody is not the ideal looked for in the Middle Ages: one that is a true friendship, enduring and tested by adversity. At the end of the scene, Friendship has nothing of substance to offer Everybody and leaves them with a statue.
I’ve been thinking about the tawdry little trophy most of the night. It was on par with a golden idol. And probably the best summation of their relationship. Which reminded me of Moses coming down the mountain with the Ten Commandments only to discover people had gotten bored, melted down the gold for a golden calf, and were throwing a party. Rather than waiting for something of substance, they had gone for gratification.
The departure of Friendship leads to the arrival of Stuff, a larger scale version of the trophy Friendship had just awarded Everybody.
My mental picture—despite BJJ’s description that Stuff is a trophy—is the junk lady from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. The junk lady rolls into that film intent on distracting the heroine from her mission with all her worldly goods. This is one reason Stuff gives for not accompanying Everybody on their journey.
The image of us being burdened with unnecessary crap seems easier to recognize than that we might have social connections that are just as hollow. There are TV programs dedicated to people who gather too much and messaging would have us believe that we are a nation of hoarders. Comedy routines have been written on the subject as in this example from George Carlin’s 1981 A Place For My Stuff:
That's all your house is- a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you're saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.... --George Carlin
Our conversation shifted to cutting loose of worldly goods. There was talk of minimalism and how impossible it would be to achieve that for some. I was reminded of Swedish death cleaning, an on-going process of decluttering and organizing but still hanging onto sentimental items. There are quite a few web pages on the topic as it is all the rage nowadays. This was the one I stopped at to refresh my memory. https://www.dumpsters.com/blog/how-to-do-swedish-death-cleaning
Carlin, George. A Place for All My Stuff. https://genius.com/George-carlin-a-place-for-my-stuff-lyrics Last Accessed: Jan 21, 2021.
Keenan, Bretton. “A Beginner’s Guide to Swedish Death Cleaning.” Dumpsters.com. Sept 11, 2019. dumpsters.com/blog/how-to-do-swedish-death-cleaning. Last accessed: Jan 21, 2021.