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"Every Brilliant Thing" Is The Play About Depression That Will Leave You Feeling Joyful

Ice cream, roller coasters, staying up past your bedtime, meaningful conversations, the smell of old books, and rainbows—there are many things, possibly even millions of things, to be happy about according to Every Brilliant Thing's seven-year-old protagonist.

The sentiment remains intact as she attempts to grasp her mother's attempt at suicide, an event that has an unlikely effect on her—an increased drive to find joyfulness in bleakness, and the realization that optimism must reign supreme no matter what. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Written by Duncan Macmillan, Every Brilliant Thing made its premier five years ago and has since become an applauded production that audiences around the world have come to love.

Despite tackling themes like death and mental health, it consistently leaves attendees smiling and lighthearted largely due to its unique format; there are no long, silent pauses to emphasize painful moments, no elaborate set designs that make it feel like a theater production with a clear beginning and end rather than an actual life event with real consequences and open-ended questions, no big casts or surround sound. 

 

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All the things one might usually associate with a "critically acclaimed production" are stripped away and audiences are left with a one-person play. The whole room is the main and only character's stage, the audience her castmates and props. Whether seated at the front row or at the very back, you never know when you (or your jacket, sock, or bag) might become part of the story. 

It's a highly interactive and personal experience and rightly so, because that's precisely how human emotions work; they come at you from every angle, often unexpectedly and sometimes all at the same time. 

 

 

Of course, giving heart to Every Brilliant Thing's presentation is its narrative. 

As the story goes, there is a family, a seemingly normal one, until mom decides to take her own life and leaves her young child in the care of her father. His words aren't quite enough to successfully convey the gravity of the situation, and his patience is tested by repeatedly asking "Why?" at every attempt he makes to explain why mom can't come home tonight.

The young protagonist lives through the trauma, but not without scars. 

 

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The plot gains speed when the play's little hero is still but a girl, but finally appears to grasp what just occured—or at least, is able to grasp it as best as a first-grader can. When the lightbulb above her head turns on, she reaches a solution: compile every brilliant thing she's ever known to make life worth living in a handwritten list, one she wishes to give mom to help her find the happiness she appears to have misplaced. 

However, as she moves on from childhood to adulthood as we all do, the list that she originally intended to be her mom's reminder to be happy begins to feel like it was meant for herself; experiencing more of life and more complex emotions, as it seems, can be equally proportionate to the amount of happiness and hopefulness we retain—or lose—as grown-ups. 

 

 

How she juggles the realities of adulthood, memories of her mother's depression, and the simplicity and brightness she once approached life with will be left for audiences to discover.

But know this: a story like this paired with the innovative way in which it's presented teaches us that in loneliness, connection, reaching out, interaction, and relationships are some of the most crucial elements in rediscovering joy—or better yet, the brilliance of living.  

 

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Every Brilliant Thing will premier in Manila on February 2 at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater in Bonifiacio Global City, Taguig. Directing its first-ever Philippine edition is Jenny Jamora, and breathing life into its protagonist is actress Teresa Herrera (a rare thing for the play, as it usually casts a male lead, making this run extra special). 

 

 

Brought to us by The Sanbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical, the play has stirred excitement in Philippine audiences as it couldn't have arrived at a more opportune time. 

In recent years, Filipinos have become more aware of issues surrounding mental health and strongly support the importance of removing taboo from conversations about depression and suicide.

 

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Many people have spoken up about their own experiences (Jenny herself revealed having gone through psychiatric treatment for depression and Teresa therapy for severe anxiety) to help normalize the discussion of the issue and to encourage those suffering from mental health conditions to seek help. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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While Filipinos have already succeeded at raising awareness, the next step is to provide them actual, practical, and safe avenues of treatment to tackle the root cause of the issue, or in other words, to actually help them get better now that they've acknowledged that something is amiss. 

Every Brilliant Thing hopes to achieve this not only through its production, but also with the talks to follow after each run. 

 

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Mental health practitioners will be invited to speak about mental health-related topics and anyone in the audience is welcome to participate, make inquiries, and engage in a Q&A session in an environment that's free of judgment. 

 

 

Ultimately, this celebrated play about death and the pain it brings holds such strong potential to bring about a refreshed lease on life—don't miss the chance to experience it, as the lessons it leaves you with will forever hold true in both life's happy moments, and in those when we'll need to remember all the brilliant reasons to keep on going. 

 

Photos from @thesandboxco @love.teresaherrera