A College Hill take on a 15th century play: Student-adapted production of ‘The Summoning of Everyman’ premieres next Thursday

Sarah Frankel ’21 adapted ‘The Summoning of Everyman’ to take place on Lafayette’s campus. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Orttung ’22)

A student-directed and adapted live production of “The Summoning of Everyman” will premiere next Thursday, marking the first time a student has directed a show for the college’s theater department in the last decade, as well as the first time the department has put on a virtual production.

Director Sarah Frankel ’21 decided to modernize the play by adapting it herself. In the play, an average Lafayette student is the titular “everyman” of the show, which is set on Lafayette’s campus. With the help of assistant director Erik Mathews ’22 and stage manager Sarah Orttung ’22, she adapted the show to be relevant to the Lafayette community.

Frankel’s adaptation references many topics that may be on the minds of Lafayette students, including Covid-19, feelings of isolation and Greek life on campus. 

Orttung emphasized that the production is “directly relevant to Lafayette students, written by and for Lafayette students.” 

“It’s a world that we all know, and [the show] has some really important things to say. I think everyone should watch it and think about how they fit into the Lafayette community and what consequences their actions have,” Orttung added.

In the adaptation, Frankel maintained the original format of the play—rhyming couplets—while writing a new script, including both monologues and interactions between the characters.

Frankel even collaborated with the cast to incorporate elements of their personalities into their characters, matching the show as closely as she could to the Lafayette experience.

“I wanted to seize the opportunity because I had just written the script, and it’s written about right now and this very moment,” Frankel explained. “So I told [the cast] from the outset that it was a normal rehearsal process but that we were also workshopping…The characters are more theirs than they are mine once the play starts running.”

Margot Galopin ‘22, who plays Confession, added that “Especially since this is an adapted script, it feels like we are originating these characters. I feel more a part of this show than any other show I’ve ever been in.”

Billy Devito ’22, who plays Knowledge, said that student viewers may see themselves in the characters and situations that take place onscreen. He suggested that this may “bring up the big conversations we’ve been having about Lafayette since COVID started” that have thus far been “hidden from the Lafayette culture.”

One line from the show may sum this idea up best: “Tonight you’ll see your own life in performance.”

Frankel said that throughout her writing process, she had to ask herself how to handle such sensitive topics without losing the wit and comedy of the show.

“The overarching message of this play is that you’re super impermanent on Earth, you could die at any moment, which unfortunately is a very real reality for us right now,” Frankel said.

According to Devito, this production “could change the way Lafayette theater is done, [because] there are so many more opportunities than there ever were.”

“This has probably made us better actors…we can connect with each other but you have to be more into it, you have to really know what your character is experiencing and what you want to get out of your character to portray it to the audience and other characters,” Galopin added.

Lauren Stango ‘22, who plays Goods, expressed the difficulties of acting only from the shoulders up.

“Especially as a theater actor…it’s a lot about your movements and your body because they can see all of you,” she said.

Stango also expressed that there is an exciting energy that comes with any live production. She emphasized that especially at this time, theater is a “powerful tool that we have.”

To adjust to the new technological landscape, the cast and crew implemented tools like green screens, ring lights, microphones and a special software called Open Broadcasting Software (OBS), which is currently being used by many theaters nationwide for virtual productions. Using Zoom, cast members can switch between virtual backgrounds during the show such as Skillman Library, Cattell Street and College Hill. 

“It’s a whole new world and a new option for theater,” Orttung said.

“The Summoning of Everyman” will be streamed on Thursday, October 1, Friday, October 2 and Saturday, October 3 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are free and can be found on the Lafayette ticket website.

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