"Every Brilliant Thing" Tackles Mental Illness
Move over, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Claire Marie Mannle is showing audiences in Tucson what brilliant things make life worth living.
Mannle, an instructor at the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television, stars in The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre’s newest play, “Every Brilliant Thing,” a one-person play by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe that shines a light on depression.
“It is a play about how we keep each other alive,” Mannle said.
According to The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre’s website, the show is centered around Mannle’s character. When her mother ends up in the hospital, the character makes a list for her that highlights all of the things that make life worth living.
“It deals with depression and mental illness, but in a humorous way,” Mannle said.
Unlike other plays, “Every Brilliant Thing” breaks the fourth wall and depends on audience interaction and participation.
“It is very important for the audience to be a part of that conversation,” said Michelle Milne, the play’s director. “With this play, there is not a fourth wall, which means that we are all in the world together.”
For Mannle, changing back and forth from acting as a character to talking to the audience makes it a fascinating role to play.
“The play moves between the narrator talking to the audience, directing the audience as performers and playing a character,” Mannle said. “The switches back and forth are certainly interesting, as an actor, to play.”
To prepare for the show, Milne said she had to enlist the help of audience members to have Mannle practice interacting with the audience.
“It’s important for Claire to have experience and practice working with audience members, so one of the things we’ve done was bring in audience members to be there for her to interact with,” Milne said. “Another thing we’ve done was take the show out to three different places: City High School, Palo Verde Behavioral Health and Milagro Cohousing community.”
Milne said that audiance members at each place was able provide feedback for the play, which is important for the show and how it is structured.
Aside from audience participation, prop design is also a big factor in helping convey the film’s message
“It’s been talking a lot with Claire and Michelle about how they see the story and how they see the character,” said Leigh Moyer, the prop designer for the play. “It’s also experimenting and trying new things.”
Moyer had to draw from experiences in her own life to help portray the film’s script accurately.
“I’m not as old as the character telling the story, but I pulled a lot from my childhood,” Moyer said. “I try to remember what it’s likes to be seven or in high school and dealing with some of these really horrible moments.”
While Milne has been involved with one-person plays before, it is both Moyer and Mannle’s first time.
“I was pretty scared to be honest, but also very excited for the challenge,” Mannle said. “You really have to trust the story and the structure and bring a lot of yourself to it, so it’s a different kind of stamina.”
Similar to Mannle, Moyer also said that putting on a one-person show can be challenging at times, but it does have its perks.
“In some ways, it’s easier, because there is only one person to answer to and share ideas with,” Moyer said. “In many ways, it’s been harder, because you only have one personality and this one character has to tell the whole story and be all these different ages.”
“Every Brilliant Thing” tackles hard topics that usually aren’t brought to light. The play talks about mental illness while still managing to be funny, joyful and hopeful, Milne said.
“I think that it’s taking on a really tough topic that we don’t talk about directly,” Milne said. “I’ve never directed anything that specifically talks about depression and how there is also joy in life.”
Milne is excited to see the audiences’ reactions to the play’s message and how they interact with Mannle throughout the play.
“I am looking forward to having audiences enjoy the play,” Milne said. “It’s a really unique interaction with the audience and I think they are going to love it.”
While Mannle is eager to interact with audience as well, she is most excited to share the play’s powerful story with Tucson.
“Seeing people really experience the story for the first time has been really exciting and gratifying,” Mannle said.
Milne encouraged people to come see “Every Brilliant Thing,” because it is nothing like anything she has seen before. She also said that it is a great play for college students to see because of its message.
“College students can really relate to the content dealing with the pressures of society and transitions into life,” Milne said.
“Every Brilliant Thing” will be playing at The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre until Feb. 24. For more information on tickets, check out the theatre’s website.
Follow Jamie on Twitter