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Death’s fugitive

BY ISABELLE ROBLES | AUGUST 06, 2015 5:00 AM

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Everyman will come to the stage. Well, the screen. Well, both.

On Saturday, the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St., will feature a screening of the London-based National Theatre’s production of Everyman. The play stars 12 Years a Slave Academy-Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role; it deals with his spiritual journey as he is called by Death and his search for someone to come to his defense before time runs out.

Everyman is a part of National Theatre’s “National Theatre Live.” In the program, the theater screens popular performances around the world so patrons can watch the performance at their local theater.

The Englert screens “encore” performances. Although they aren’t live, the performances are the exact same with the addition of some behind-the-scenes footage at breaks and other points of the performance.

“National Theatre Live” is part of the Englert’s Captured Lived Programming series. The series also features productions from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Royal Shakespeare Company, added for this season.

“Our Captured Live Programming is a great way to see some of the world’s best in theater — top actors, including Hollywood actors such as Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Franco, [and] Tom Hiddleston,” said Aly High, marketing director at the Englert. “[Audiences can also see] works from great playwrights, including Shakespeare and contemporary writers, such as Tom Stoppard, and astounding costume and set design.

“These performers are at the top of their game, and it’s amazing to be able to see them in Iowa City, and because the ticket prices are so low, it’s a low barrier to entry for people who are just curious about theater. We have received excellent feedback from patrons who are longtime theater lovers and newcomers alike. Students often come to productions featuring actors they recognize, such as James Franco or Benedict Cumberbatch, who may have never chosen to see a play otherwise.”

Everyman is the first of the Englert’s National Live Theatre screenings this season. The Beaux’ Stratagem and Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, will follow in September and November, respectively.

“We have received excellent feedback from patrons who are longtime theater lovers and newcomers alike. Students often come to productions featuring actors they recognize, such as James Franco or Benedict Cumberbatch, who may have never chosen to see a play otherwise,” High said.

The performances of Everyman in London began in April, and the production will run through Aug. 30.

The play, considered a classic English story, discusses ideas of spirituality at its core as Everyman tries to escape death.

“The play, by definition, is a story of a man being forced into a conversation with God … it seems like the stage is one of the few places you can have that kind of epic conversations,” Ejiofor said on the website of “National Theatre Live.”

For him, the subject matter helps bring important questions to the surface.

“The audience will have an experience, and the experience will be quite visceral,” he said. “Engaging, I think, I hope. I think also they will come away with ideas and with questions about life, about death and the thoughts we have about those things … what our communication is with our own spirituality, with our sense of life and its meaning. I think the play resonates with all those levels as well as being [a] very energized, dramatic, dynamic piece of theater, but it still is something very thoughtful, something that is considering the larger questions.”

Thanks to “National Theatre Live,” audiences across the nation will get the opportunity to consider these questions.

“This piece is for every man,” Everyman Director Rufus Norris said on the “National Theatre Live” website. “A young person will come in and enjoy this, hopefully, as much as an academic who is very happy to see this important part of [English] heritage being brought to a new audience. I wanted it to be a theater that nobody felt excluded from.”


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