Shakespeare in the Park is produced by Cookeville’s Leisure Services Department

Cookeville – The 2023 production of Shakespeare in the Park opens tonight at the Performance Pavilion in Dogwood Park, according to a release by Cookeville Leisure Services.

Performances are held nightly at 8 p.m. from Sept. 29 through Oct. 7. In a departure from expectation, this year’s play, The Summoning of Everyman, was not written by Shakespeare. In fact, the authorship of the play is a mystery that remains to be solved. 

The Summoning of Everyman, commonly referred to as Everyman, is a 15th century morality play. Morality plays were common throughout medieval Europe, but Everyman stands out for its cultural and theatrical impact. According to Mark Creter, Director of this year’s production, Everyman was unusual for its time. Its use of abstraction and original storytelling paved the way for future playwrights, including Shakespeare.

The play’s influence on Shakespeare is partially why Everyman was selected as this year’s production, but it is far from the only reason. Creter also suggested the play because it has always held a special fascination for him. He believes the core message of Everyman is still relevant and necessary for modern audiences.

Everyman explores themes of spiritual salvation and how “every man” might attain it. Throughout the play, the main character, named Everyman, struggles to thwart Death’s summons.  He seeks the assistance of other allegorical characters such as Kindred, Goods and Fellowship. All desert him save for Good Deeds, who follows Everyman to the grave. Morality plays were not known for their subtlety.

Despite the somewhat heavy-handed messaging, this year’s production is sure to be a dramatic and imaginative take on this medieval classic. As Creter puts it, this year’s play is “going to be a weird one!” With its dramatic use of masks and blending of contemporary and medieval costume, the production is a visual delight that is sure to please show goers.

The Summoning of Everyman is performed nightly from Sept. 29 through Oct. 7 at the Dogwood Performance Pavilion. Shows are 75 minutes long and begin at 8 p.m. Concessions will be available and audience members are encouraged to bring a blanket or folding chair.

Shakespeare in the Park is produced by Cookeville’s Leisure Services Department. For more information, call the Performing Arts Center at 931-528-1313.  

Photo courtesy of the City of Cookeville.

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