In a 2016 Hollywood Reporter review critic Frank Scheck described Every Brilliant Thing as “A wise and witty examination of crippling depression and the effect it has on family members, the uplifting piece provides a perfect antidote for the holiday blues.” That quote captures the powerful yet contradictory nature of this one-person play and is a reason why it is included in Arts and Sciences Week at WPI.
Kate Moncrief, Arts and Sciences Department Head, recognized the importance of bringing this show’s message of hope to campus, especially this year. As the world continues to deal with a global pandemic and social justice is being re-examined at every level, feelings of isolation, frustration and depression are growing. Yet, art remains. Whether it is in the visual or performance form, the ability to express one’s emotions through art often allows others to find understanding, comradery and even comfort, and can be healing. The Herd recently interviewed Prof. Moncrief for her thoughts on this play and how Every Brilliant Thing may impact every brilliant mind on campus.
The Herd (TH): Can you explain your background with this play?
Kate Moncrief (KM): During the summer of 2019, when I was working as Dramaturg and Play Seminar Director at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Festival produced Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe. Every morning, six days per week, I led audience discussions about eight plays running that summer, including this one. The discussions of Every Brilliant Thing left an indelible impression as people opened up in response to seeing the production. They shared their own experiences, connecting with the story and with each other.
TH: How has it made an impact on you?
KM: Directing Every Brilliant Thing at WPI, especially now, has been a joy! It has been a shared artistic experience and an exercise in creative problem solving (using the space, being mindful of all COVID restrictions and safety protocols).
TH: Why did you want to bring this to WPI?
KM: Mental health and wellbeing are important to me and are a priority in the School of Arts and Sciences. This play addresses difficult mental health issues with humor, sensitivity, honesty, and hope. Key themes: you are not alone, you are not weird, things get better!
TH: Why now?
KM: We, as community living through COVID 19, are experiencing a life-changing situation; some of the consequences include feelings of stress, isolation, and loneliness. As a community, we can use art to help us connect with each other and to help us heal. This play focuses on “everything brilliant about the world”—finding joy and hope, even in the face of difficulty and loss.
TH: Why is audience participation important?
KM: This format of this one-person play is unique in the way it uses audience interaction. One key aspect of this play is human connection, something that is demonstrated in the structure of the play, as the narrator works with the audience to tell this important story. As the narrator creates a list of “everything brilliant about the world” it become a shared experience as the audience contributes to the list.
TH: What has been the response from the students working on this play?
KM: The students on this team are, in fact, brilliant—hard-working, talented, and collaborative.
Several students are earning academic credit (Fiona Doyle/minor capstone in Theatre; Emily Baker/ practicum in directing; Emily Bendremer/practicum in Stage Management) and many are participating in production roles, including production management, lighting design, sound design, props design, sound engineering, publicity, and more. They are happy to be working on something—making theatre—together, live and in-person.
For more information about the show as well as performances times and dates visit: https://www.wpi.edu/news/calendar/events/wpi-performance-every-brilliant-thing