Published September 28, 2016
This October, Clarks Summit University’s Theater Department will bring a new perspective to an old story under the direction of Jonathan Strayer (‘03), assistant professor and technical director for theatre. “Everyman” is a classic 15th century morality play that deals with life, death, good and evil. In the allegorical account, the main character, Everyman, represents all of mankind.
“Everyman” is the first mainstage theatre production at CSU to be directed by Strayer, a CSU alumnus who has worked in professional and educational theatre for over ten years. Prior to coming to CSU, Strayer taught at Marywood University, Penn State Worthington-Scranton and Keystone College. He is an actor, director and artistic director of Ghostlight Productions, a regional theatre company he co-founded with his wife, Rachel (Auffort) Strayer (‘04).
This fall’s play is a unique challenge for the Theater Department. The 15th century script has been edited and rewritten by Strayer and cast member Susanna Ferbrache to become “an original work of art,” according to Strayer. He says, “Everything is being built from the ground up. Our audience will be the first audience to hear this particular text.” Even some main themes of the play are being changed. While the original script focuses on a salvation by works message, the CSU version focuses on salvation by faith.
“Everyman” tells a musical story alongside traditional acting. Strayer explains, “There are parts of the play where the music tells the story, and the actors accompany the musicians. And there are parts where the acting tells the story, and the musicians accompany the actors.”
The play employs experimental and devised theater, which is also new for the CSU stage. The cast is encouraged to construct ideas and try new things during rehearsals to tell the story. Emma Finke, casted as “Death,” describes, “This play was born from collaboration. In the beginning, Strayer said, ‘Think big. No idea is off the table.’ That’s exactly what we did. Each and every one of us came with our biggest and boldest ideas. We had to be ok with everyone hating or changing them. But then there were those times when someone would share an idea, and then another person would build onto it, and then another would add an element and so on until we built an entire play together.”
Due to the nature of this play, rehearsals have stretched the cast physically and mentally. Musician Megan Miller says, “So far, rehearsal as a musician for ‘Everyman’ has been such a challenging but equally rewarding experience, because we’re diving right in and getting to see communication in both elements of movement and sound as they slowly come together to form an original piece. I’m so excited to see where such a unique creative process takes us in the next few weeks.”
“Everyman” will be performed October 13-15 and 20-22 at 8 p.m. Each performance will be unique because a different member of the cast will play the main character each night. “The audience should not expect to come in and see the set of a living room on the stage and passively watch. The action will be happening in and around them,” Strayer admits. “What we are trying to do is create a piece that serves as an introspective mirror to the audience so that they can look at the characters on stage and actually see parts of themselves.”
For tickets, call the box office at 570.585.9000 or click here.
Learn more about CSU’s Communications – Theatre Program and Theatrical Productions.
– Heather Sagnor
Sagnor is a junior in the Communications Writing program. She grew up in the small town of Parkesburg, PA and plans to graduate in May, 2018.