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.)
My current dramaturgy project is Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by KT Turner, Everybody is an adaptation of The Summoning of Everyman a late 15th-century morality play.
Everyman is a product of the Middle Ages, the years between the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century and the Renaissance 15th & 16th centuries. It was an age replete with war, famine, and disease. Oscar Brockett wrote that the bulk of western European society then was comprised of peasants ruled over by secular and religious leaders. He painted a grim picture of people simply struggling to survive with the arts having more less fallen by the wayside:
…the arts held a precarious foothold in this insecure world. Building in stone almost ceased, and art objects were intentionally kept small so they might be transported easily in times of upheaval. --Oscar Brockett
The Middle Ages saw the rise of feudalism and during that time the church was presenting liturgical dramas for missionary and educational purposes. These in turn gave rise to morality plays around the 14th century, the High Middle Ages.
Through the years, feudalism began to give way to kings and the power of cities. Guilds began to form. These same guilds took over presenting plays and the church stepped back to overseeing the content of the plays.
Here are a few dates from the 16th century to center Everyman:
- 1503: Da Vinci begins painting the Mona Lisa.
- 1509: Henry VIII became King of England.
- 1517: Martin Luther introduced his 95 Theses in Germany starting the Protestant Reformation.
- 1519- 21: Hernán Cortés leads the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
- 1530: The Summoning of Everyman was published.
- 1531- 32: The Church of England breaks away from the Roman Catholic Church. King Henry VIII becomes the head of the Church.
In about 1530, the earliest extant print of The Summoning of Everyman was published. Everyman has had productions over the centuries as well as adaptations. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Everybody is the latest adaptation. The work is also a 2018 Pulitzer finalist and it will be a Zoom production here at the University of Idaho this spring.
Brockett, Oscar. Franklin J. Hildy. History of the Theatre, Tenth Edition. Pearson Education, Inc.2008.