There is a play with a life-affirming message so powerful that the Utah Shakespeare Festival is offering it to every public high school and university in the state of Utah to help stem the tide of youth suicide. “Every Brilliant Thing,” by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, is an ingenious, heartfelt, highly theatrical one-person show wherein the narrator interacts directly with the audience.
Audience members learn that when the narrator was a child, his or her mother suffered from depression and attempted suicide. The narrator decided to make a list of all the things that make life worth living to persuade her to live, starting with #1, “ice cream,” and continuing to one million. This inventive, beautifully-rendered theatrical experience is unique in the way the audience becomes a support community for the narrator and gains rich insights along the way about the things hiding in plain sight that make life worthwhile and wonderful.
“I am proud of the effort undertaken by the Utah Shakespeare Festival to perform ‘Every Brilliant Thing‘ at each school within this great state,” said Lieutenant Governor Spencer J. Cox, who has discussed his own struggles with suicidal thoughts as a young man. “Many youth today do not have adequate support structures and demand our attention and the encouragement from efforts like this. I believe this production will save lives.”
Through the support of the State of Utah, the Department of Heritage and Arts, the Utah Department of Arts and Museums, Rural Health Division of Southern Utah, Southern Utah University, the Ashton Family Foundation and the Hemingway Foundation, there will be no charge to the schools or students.
Materials and information on how students can get help will be available after each performance.
Two separate touring companies will crisscross the state from October 2019 to February 2020. They will present more than 150 school performances and 10 public performances, reaching over 75,000 students.
“Taking two tours of ‘Every Brilliant Thing‘ around the state of Utah is a public service effort the festival is proud of,” said Donn Jersey, director of development and communication. “The hope is this endeavor starts a conversation and removes the secrets that can cause suffering so healing can be a real possibility for those affected by depression and suicidal thoughts. We are incredibly grateful to our sponsors for making this dream a reality.”
Utah has the highest rate of suicide for youth 10-24 years old and ranks fifth highest in suicide rates in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many students in the state have been impacted by suicide in some way, and the state has undertaken a variety of measures to reverse this tragic trend.
“This is some of the most important work we, as a theatre company, can do,” said Frank Mack, executive producer of the festival. “While it’s not treatment, artistic experiences that so powerfully say ‘yes’ to life can have a profound impact. When we see someone else’s story, it can help us reflect on our circumstances in completely new and different ways. When young people see, in a marvelously creative and theatrical way, one million reasons to live, it will help shed light on what’s most positive. Live theatre can do this like nothing else.”