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UT Student Creates His Own Fate

Published: March 03, 2004

Daniel Everson often has found solace in his music. Four years ago, hours before his mother’s death from ovarian cancer, the high school senior sat at the family piano to compose a deeply personal six-minute song.

“It was the most traumatic thing, and I decided that the only way that I was going to get through this was that song,” said Everson of the ballad he performed at her funeral.

Four years later, UT senior Everson once again would share his music – this time by creating an elaborate musical production, Fate. For six months, Everson sacrificed sleep and social life in order to compose an original score, write a 72-page script, and direct a 15-member cast for the two-hour drama that benefited the American Cancer Society.

Inspired by recollections, Fate depicts a mother’s death and a family’s struggle for peace as she reaches to them from an unseen realm. While “She’s flat-lining!” pierced the air in Allen N. Reeves Theater during a second-night performance in February, Everson looked on – hearing his script echo his past.

“I ask of you all to open your minds,” sang Julie Garte powerfully. But in truth, it’s Everson, through his words and operatic music, asking the audience to reflect on significant issues such as life, death and destiny.

During the play, mystical creatures – Vabulas and Darvinians – act as guiding forces by steering intuition or through seemingly innocuous actions such as scattering papers. After her death, the mother, played by Leah Monzillo, finds herself amid this altered plane while trying to communicate with family, particularly her troubled daughter.

Lyrical platitudes such as “the walking dead can change the living” and “fate is destiny” reflect Everson’s belief in the afterlife, and that the spirit of his mother is indeed watching. In the play, the troubled daughter Ashley, played by Kim Morgan, is assured of her mother’s presence through the appearance of dimes the mother places before her.

The message, says Everson, is that all events – good and bad – happen for a reason.

But beyond Everson’s philosophies is Fate’s core strength, his original melodies – a musical fusion of classical opera, jazz and hip-hop.

Long-time UT music professor David Isele, who advised Everson, has joined others in marveling about Everson’s accomplishment and his sophisticated compositions.

“I don’t call it a student production,” said Isele. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this is a notch way above what you would expect a student production to be.”

Praise also has come from Tampa businessman Tom Hall, a fine arts supporter with Broadway connections, who encouraged Everson to pursue his dream and also helped fund the $10,000 production.

“He has a wonderful talent,” said Hall. “A lot of people in theater don’t hit their stride until later in life, so he’s getting a good early start.”

After show’s end, the capacity crowd gave Everson and his cast a standing ovation. Within the 180-seat theater were family members in the second row. His father, Craig Everson, and his beaming sister, Kristine Potochar, said the play rang true.

“I’ve been crying the whole time,” said Potochar, who drove to Tampa from Leesburg, Va. “I got goosebumps at least five times. He brought to life a lot of what happened.”

As the lights went on, Everson was swarmed by congratulating friends and family. He complimented the cast’s flawless performances, and then stopped for a moment to assess the special night.

“We were heard,” he said with pride.


Do lines such as “Why us? Why her?” reflect your own reaction to death?
Yes. I have questioned a lot what happened and why. Nothing is fair in life. This play really tells the audience that nothing is fair, but yet there is hope.

These are all questions that people ask themselves. Maybe not aloud, but to themselves. To actually witness somebody saying it out loud is completely different.

Where do you find inspiration for your music and writing?
I guess my inspiration just came from what I wanted to tell the audience. If you listen to each song, it’s stories being told. It’s never the same repetition. As the script developed, I got more excited and wanted to do other things.

Will this play be an act of closure for you?
Yes! I think that’s why it’s so stressful – like it’s almost there and all these little problems keep happening. I know this will be closure for everything. I think that I’ll have an ultimate peace when this is done. With the show and with my feelings from my past.

What do you think determines a person’s fate?
What they do in their life. It’s like following your temptations. If you’re a strong enough person to follow those temptations, you should be a strong enough person to take the responsibility for that.

How accurately do the characters depict actual family members?
I think at moments they are very, very similar. However, I think at times when you put on a drama of this nature you have to go to the extreme. I’m putting in a lot of harshness and aggressiveness that I didn’t go through. However, I know that other people have gone through that. But I know what I was feeling inside, and I think that’s where it came from.

What will be your next project?
To find a job. Because honestly I’m thinking that I can do this stuff and someone needs to see it.

What kind of person was your mom?
My mom was like the nicest person in the entire world. She would have done anything for me; I don’t even know where to begin. If it had to do with me, she was involved with everything, with all of us, my sisters and my dad.

Do you think that she’ll be watching?
I think she already is.