THE SUMMONING OF EVERYMAN – WISDOM FOR THE AGES AT MCNEESE’S TRITICO THEATRE – BUT, ALAS, ONLY THIS WEEKEND!!

SHORT TAKE:

Lovely, one-act, historic cautionary tale on what ultimately matters most at the end of one's life.

WHO CAN GO:

Appropriate for all audience members.

LONG TAKE:

SPOILERS

The Somonyng of Everyman – no my keyboard does not need a new battery and I have not let my spell check run wild – is the original spelling of a 600-odd year old play, transliterated into modern English as The Summoning of EverymanCharles McNeely has wisely chosen to direct this cautionary morality play, and it is to the edification of his cast, his students, McNeese University, and the Lake Charles theater going community at large, where this play succeeds magnificently. The story is about "Everyman", a representative for all of humanity, who must, as we all do, eventually make an accounting of his life. In The Summoning of Everyman this accounting is before God. But even those without faith, if considering their own mortality, might find themselves making an analysis of the way they have spent their years, and the lessons of Everyman are well advised.

It is a common modern warning than in your final hours you are unlikely to regret not spending more time at the office. There is wisdom in this philosophy too. That when on the threshold of what Hamlet called the "undiscovered country from whose borne no traveler returns," it is only in the recollection of those deeds of generosity, kindness, and expressons of love you are likely to find comfort.

In Everyman, the main character confronts his failings in relying on the fickle and often devious worldly concepts, each personified by a different actor: Sin, Fellowship, Kinship, Worldy Possessions, and even Beauty, Strength, Discretion and the Five Wits (the Inward of which are not listed specifically in the play's script but were well known at the time as: Common Sense, Instinct, Imagination, Memory and Fantasy, OR could also be interpreted as the Outward Wits of the Five Senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste), all of whom abandon Everyman in his hour of need as he approaches the Throne of God for Judgment.

Written during the Tudor period (between 1485 and 1603), the script is in Middle English with author unknown, though likely a churchman or several churchmen, possibly based upon a series of homilies. Rendered in simple, child-like, rhythmic, rhyming poetry, the language is rich in lyricalness, imagery, and a sense of historical context.

The play was composed during a period of relative peace, just after the threat of Black Plague had finally begun to decrease, as the feudal system was ending, literacy was on the rise and the Catholic Church was at the center of everyone's life. Subsequently, there was opportunity for the civilized European world to reflect with a certain quietude upon the meaning of existence and what it means to prepare for death. Not that this culture did not already keep such considerations at the forefront of their lives, but with an island of historic comparative tranquility, the population at large could meditate thoughfully in a manner in which it had not been able to for some generations.

Everyman at last seeks out his Good Deeds and Knowledge. It is only when together, they lead him to repentance and Confession, that he begins to see the path to redemption.

The stage is sparse and appropriately vague, creating a historically universal atmosphere with ragged, cobwebby drappings on several levels of risers. The actors are in modern casual dress as an "Everyman" might present him or herself. Most of the performers portray more than one character and the character of Everyman is portrayed, during different confrontations with his own failings, by a succession of actors and actresses. This too lends a subtle conceptual air of ubiquitousness – that ALL or any of us are Everyman who must some day, possibly quite unexpectedly, come to an accounting.

More or less in order of their first appearances: Himshree Neupane introduces, then at the end dismisses, us as the Messenger and also plays Fellowship, Beauty and takes a turn as Everyman. Essense Means is one of those who demonstrate sin and Everyman, as well as Goods. Sean Hinchee is one of those who struggles against sin in the introduction and personifies Confession. Hannah Jolivette is Death and takes a turn at Goods. PZ Stanford lends his voice to the portrayal of God, stands in for Everyman at one point and personifies Discretion and the Five Wits.  Jennifer Tolbert portrays another aspect of sin, as well as Kin, and plays the key character of Good Deeds.  Ariel Pete takes a turn at Strength. Madeline Smith is on stage for sin and characterizes Knowledge. Markell Jolivette helps introduce the World of Sin. All gift the stage with their enthusiasm and energy.

In the end, it is bluntly spoken, that only your Good Deeds will companion you into the afterlife, and I think this can be agreed upon as a Universal maxim among believers and unbelievers alike.

CS Lewis cautioned against chronological snobbery – the bias against the old in favor of the new. This 600 year old play is a shining example of Lewis' persipacity, as much enlightenment can be gleaned from this simple, poetic, one-act, six-centuries old play, which you will discover if you are wise enough to attend this beautiful play at McNeese's Tritico Theatre, 4205 Ryan St Lake Charles, LA 70605, this weekend.

So click to get your tickets at: the McNeese Box Office or call 337-475-5040.

 

THE TEENAGER PROJECT: MYTHBUSTING ADOLESCENCE – A BOLD THEATER EXPERIMENT

To paraphrase Dumbledore from the first Harry Potter movie, it takes courage to reveal your innermost secrets to your friends, but it takes even more courage to reveal them to strangers for the benefit of others. And this is what the young people in the play The Teenager Project: Mythbusting Adolescence do. A distillation from personal and third-party real life experiences of young people from 12 to 21 years of age, The Teenager Project bares its soul to its audience in painful and sincere expose. The authors are the performers with contributions from the director, Charles McNeely, who, for the purposes of this play wryly self-describes as a "58 year old former adolescent".

Mr. McNeely points out these are experiences to which we can all relate, either from first hand or from stories we've heard.

The premise of the play is to bring into the open the personal crises, angst, anxieties, doubts, fears, and conflicts which happen to the average child as they transition from adolescence to adulthood.

They creatively approach the topic from a variety of scenarios, as: a courtroom drama, a research lab, a therapist office, and a variety of interactions with parents in disciplinary situations. One of the most amusing scenarios was one of the "how to and not to" discipline, as perceived from the teens' POV. Based upon the reactions of the young actors who we met after the play, I believe the young people were surprised by the approving laughter from and relatability the parents in the audience had to, the tough-talking mother to her wayward son.  I suspect the stern mom was supposed to be the "how NOT to" from the kids' point of view. However, the adults in the audience recognized the wisdom and constructivity of the stricter more disciplinary approach. So, as the teens sought to inform us, through the  wisely intentional interactiveness of the play, the teens found themselves learning as well.

This disjunct between what the actors expected and what they got in the adult audience reaction was a charming example to me of the genuineness of the young writers' efforts to convey the dis-communication between the parental authority figure and the child. This becomes especially keen when one considers that, aside from the judiciously limited input from the adult director, the play was primarily written by children who have no parental experience. In short, the adults in the audience have been both sides of that fence. The young people have not but have honestly opened their hearts and minds to let us know what they are thinking and feeling.

 

This play is for everyone. Aside from a few inappropriate uses of the name of God as an interjection, although not as a profanity, there is no bad language. There is no inappropriate sexuality and no violence. I would note though that as the topic would be of little interest to the very young, they might get restless and bored, though there is nothing in the play that the young should not see.

 

My only concern with the content is that there was too little emphasis on theological solutions and not much by way of the adult perspective. It seems as though the instinctive response of the young people was to resort to secular therapy. None went to seek guidance, specifically, from a priest or pastor or rabbi.

 

As to the lack of adult perspective though, as these experiences were gleaned directly from youth age 12 to 21, I cannot fault the lack of adult input.

 

The play did clearly display the inherent and natural inclination of youth of that age to perceive the world as revolving around them without the understanding that a broader, more altruistic worldview, and an adherence to a more God centered life might go far in a way to resolving many of their issues.

 

The director, Charles McNeely, innovatively chose what he terms a "devised" style of writing, which is not a script, but written in almost vignette form from real life experiences and based upon topics which the writers / actors thought important. With that insight, it occurs to me that The Teenager Project could be First Act in a broader scoped "Human" Project Trilogy. In this First Act they have creatively and thoroughly presented us with the problem. Perhaps a Second Act could present the adults' point of view to the same scenarios. And the Third Act could be a collaborative effort to achieve some resolution, solutions, understanding, communication and perhaps at least a detante between the two "warring" generational  factions.

 

Having seen this bold and fresh approach, I very much  look forward to seeing what the talented and insightful Mr. McNeely has in store for us in the future with his gifted troupe of young actor/writers.

 

The ensemble cast of actors each play many different parts including: (presumably) themselves, teachers, parents, therapists, and other adults, as well as representating their peers. The cast includes: Evan Seago, Peyton Stanford, Jennifer Tolbert, Himshree Neupane, Hannah Jolivette, Romm Silwal, Supratik Regmi, Marilyn Wright, and Jack Snyder.

 

The play is showing at the Sherman Fine Arts Theatre on the McNeese Campus through this Sunday, March 24th. 7:30 evening performances and at 2 pm Sunday matinee. Tickets can be purchased online here