It’s not every day that a student receives $2,000 to fulfill their creative vision, but that is exactly what happened to University of Georgia senior and theatre major Ellen Everitt.
History Matters/Back to the Future is a national nonprofit organization that “promotes the study and production of women's plays of the past.” The nonprofit awards “Sallie Bingham” grants to four students across the country to make it possible for them to produce plays by female playwrights written before 1965.
Everitt plans to direct “The Emperor of the Moon” by Aphra Behn. The play, which was published in 1687, is on the obscure side and is not performed often. Everitt’s production is still in the beginning stages, but is planned to be performed in spring 2019.
“She was this really awesome, badass female playwright."
- Ellen Everitt, grant recipient and theatre student
This is not the first production Everitt has directed. She also also directed “And Baby Makes Seven” by Paula Vogel for the Thalian Blackfriars in fall of 2017.
Everitt was drawn to “The Emperor of the Moon” in part because of the playwright, who was a spy. She was also one of the first female playwrights to get her work produced in England. Everitt wanted to produce one of Behn’s lesser-known works and finds Behn’s writing prolific.
“She was this really awesome, badass female playwright,” Everitt said.
The play is a farce about a man who wants to marry his daughter and niece to men on the moon, who he believes are superior to Earth men. The two women then trick him into letting them court who they want by convincing him that they have met men from the moon. Everitt wants to portray this story through a queer lens and replace the men with women. She attributes this unusual take as part of the reason why she got the grant.
Before she applied for the grant, Everitt asked Associate Professor Marla Carlson to be her advisor for the project. Each student was required to have a faculty advisor, and each advisor receives a $500 stipend.
The women got to know each other during a UGA Theatre production of “Machinal” that Carlson directed in the spring of 2017. Carlson was also the advisor for “And Baby Makes Seven,” and shares Everitt’s interest in feminism and queer theory.
Carlson finds the project compelling due to the obscurity of the play and Everitt’s choice to use a queer lens, which will help the audience see the radical nature of the play.
“The play itself is interesting and unusual, and her approach to it makes its relevance clear for a contemporary audience,” Carlson said. “It’s really thought through.”
To Everitt, the play portrays the idea of the struggle between belief and truth, and how belief can cause someone to be committed to something totally wrong. While the play is a farce, she wants to have a greater impact on those who attend her production.
“I want people to walk away questioning what they assume to be truths,” Everitt said.
Everitt is excited to begin to work with the actors and see the input they add to their roles and deal with the older language. She’s also excited for the challenge of keeping the play funny while still doing the characters justice. At the same time, she’s nervous about the responsibility of using her grant money wisely.
The money will be used for production costs, including costumes, the set and other expenses, and any profits from ticket sales will go either to the actors or to a charity.
“It’s definitely a bigger budget than I’ve ever worked with, which is definitely intimidating,” Everitt said.
Carlson said Everitt is a strong director, and a talented and creative person. She is excited for Everitt’s opportunity to not only to work with this budget, but to also receive the recognition that comes with the grant.
“It gives you the reassurance that someone is interested in what you are doing,” Carlson said. “That’s huge.”