The Howmet Playhouse Summer Theatre Festival will delve into the subject of suicide and depression in its fifth play of the summer season with the one-man show, “Every Brilliant Thing,” by playwright Duncan Macmillan.
Running August 9-11, at 7:30 p.m. at Whitehall High School, “Every Brilliant Thing” is an account of a six year old son who is growing up with a mother who struggles with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. Audiences should be aware, however that this play is anything but morose. It has many moments of humor and takes on this difficult subject with just the right amount of lightness, charm, warmth and respect.
First produced at Britain’s Ludlow Fringe Festival in 2013, this performance piece was later broadcast on HBO starring British comedian, writer and performer Jonny Donahoe. In the West Michigan production veteran actor Chris Beaman takes on the role, playing a character who, in his attempts to thwart his mother’s suicide attempts, begins compiling a list of the greatest sources of pleasures in life. There are so many reasons to want to live, the son reasons, if only he can make her see the simple joys of everyday life. The activity of creating the list sustains him through milestones that include not only numerous suicide attempts by his mother, but also his going to college, and falling in love for the first time, and more.
Audience participation is a big part of the hour-long play, but theatergoers shouldn’t worry about being embarrassed or singled-out. The expectation is that those who choose to participate are real people, not actors, which is what makes the interchanges work best. When audience members arrive, they will be greeted by Beaman and some will be given slips of paper with numbered items to call out, such as ice cream, water fights, and staying up past your bedtime. By the end of the show, the hope is that the audience has built a comradery, working together to create a touching and “brilliant” story.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America. The topic is often still one that people avoid due to stigma and fear. With the support of , this production hopes to encourage conversations about mental health and provide resources for people to seek help when they need it.
Health West, plus other community support organizations will have an on-site presence at the productions as community partners. The show is underwritten by the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and the entire festival is supported by a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
Of the production, Michael Pyne, chairman of the Muskegon Suicide Prevention Coalition & HealthWest, stated, “Because the arts can often help to bring difficult conversations into the light we were very pleased that The Howmet Playhouse would be presenting ‘Every Brilliant Thing’. He continued,
“Mental health concerns and suicide are often shrouded in pain and fear due to stigma. ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ handles these topics in such a charming, heartwarming, touching and, yes, even funny way that the audience cannot help but be moved. It is a play you will not soon forget.”
Directed by Natalie Carmolli, “Every Brilliant Thing” is the fifth play in the Howmet Summer Theatre festival and will be a black box performance on the stage of Whitehall High School, 3100 White Lake Drive, August 9-11 at 7:30 PM.
Tickets and season flex passes are on sale at Whitehall City Hall, by calling 231-894-4048, and online at Individual tickets are $21 for adults and $17 for students. Flex Passes, which can be used in any combination, are also being sold, see the website or call for more information. Seating is general admission.