First published in the Sept. 10 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
Imagine if an actor had to change roles every night.
That’s the concept behind a new production called “Everybody” playing at the Antaeus Theatre in Glendale.
Four performers play the same roles every night, while five actors rotate into other roles, including the principal part of “Everybody.” The roles are chosen during a lottery voted on by audience members about 15 minutes into each performance.
The play is a modern take on the 15th century morality play “Everyman,” and looks at how we journey through life’s greatest mystery — the meaning of living.
Director Jennifer Chang said this type of production has had its challenges, but she has made sure that she’s holding rehearsals that let the actors who rotate roles have enough time to learn each part.
She said “Everyman” was originally written to be performed in a church because plays were not allowed at that time. It’s designed to teach people how to live a good life. “When you’re dying, what did you do with your life?” she asked. “You have to tell God what you’ve been up to.”
She added that the author of the modernized play, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, does take certain liberties, including some humor, to convey what morality is when not everyone believes the same thing.
Nicole Erb, who plays a rotating “Somebody,” has worked at the Antaeus before. She’s the one who suggested the theater produce “Everybody.” She’d never seen the show before, but she’s enjoyed the works of Jacobs-Jenkins.
He is an American playwright, who won the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play for his plays “Appropriate” and “An Octoroon.” His plays “Gloria” and “Everybody” were finalists for the 2016 and 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, respectively. He was named a MacArthur Fellow for 2016.
Erb said it was a unique experience to learn how rotate into a different part every night.
“It’s been wild,” she said, adding that each “Somebody” has to basically learn the entire show. “It’s been both fun and deeply horrifying.”
Erb and the other “Somebodies” prepared for the show before rehearsals began because whoever is elected to play “Everybody” will be onstage a majority of the play, she explained.
The Antaeus Theatre is located at 110 E. Broadway in Glendale. Previews for “Everybody” begin Sunday for a discounted price. The play officially opens on Friday, Sept 16. For more information or to order tickets, visit antaeus.org or call (818) 506-5436.