Seton Hill's 'Everyman' keeps medieval text, adds modern music

Performing a morality play – especially one penned in the Middle Ages – might not seem too appealing to an average college theater student.

Dr. Terry Brino-Dean, associate professor of theater and director of the Seton Hill University theater program, has come up with a way to give “Everyman” — a medieval drama that deals with man’s fear of dying and his hope for redemption through his actions on earth — a contemporary twist.

In a theatrical style that college students can relate to, Seton Hill’s new adaptation of “Everyman” is a musical with songs by the American folk rock duo The Indigo Girls. The Everyman character is played by five students who tell the story while sitting around a drum circle on a camping trip. —Candy WilliamsSeton Hill’s ‘Everyman’ keeps medieval text, adds modern music (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

I attended this show last night with my son, Peter (age 9) who thought it was great. He got the main message — that your material possessions won’t follow you into your grave, so you should pay attention to how you live your life.

Until just now, when I looked it up for this blog entry, I thought that my only knowledge of the Indigo Girls was their rendition of “Iko Iko” in the opening scene of Rain Man, but IMBD says that was actually perforemed by a group called The Belle Stars.

So I guess I actually knew less than nothing about the Indigo Girls.

The production used the full medieval text, with some modernization of archaic terms. I quickly grew to understand the effectiveness of having Everyman’s speeches (some of them rather long) broken up and distributed among five actors who share the role throughout the play. Having each actor refer to “I” and “my” rather than “we” and “our” did emphasize the solitary nature of the quest — each “Everyman” was making a solitary journey, but in keeping with the peer-to-peer culture the play depicted a group of peers experiencing the message in parallel.

During the talk-back session afterwards, I invited Terry to talk some more about his choice to make Everyman into a group, because that seemed to be so much at odds from the message of the play — that we enter our graves alone, except for our Good Deeds. Having Everyman played by 5 different people who could put their arms around each other and comfort each other seemed to work against that message. (Like a good teacher, he bounced the question back to the audience first, though after a few comments he did note that the play does have both a communal and individual message, and his production chose to emphasize the communal one.)

More if I have time — too much shouting and pounding. No, I’m not referring to the drum circle that opened the show (which was a lot of fun to watch), I’m referring to the perils of blogging with small kids at home.

(Update, several hours later:)

Also during the talk back session, I noted that the actors who played Death, Good Deeds, and Knowledge did not sound at all like they were speaking rhymed verse. I said something like “I’m an English professor, so I notice these things, and I mean that as a compliment. Those lines are hard to speech.”

I was so surprised at the irony of my own slip-of-the-tongue that I said, “Hard to speech? I think I’m going to bail out now.”

After that, Terry closed the session, and my son started jumping up and down with glee, pointing at me and saying “This guy killed the discussion! This guy killed the discussion!”