“Every Brilliant Thing” shines a light on mental health and seeks to empower the audience to see the beauty in things that are often taken for granted.
The best part about the new feature presentation at the Wallace Theater is that the audience will be engaged like never before–by helping to tell the story themselves.
“Every Brilliant Thing” has a unique take on natural human feelings that are often times pushed under the rug and shrugged off, but does it in a way that will make the audience laugh and feel heard.
“They’re going to have a good time,” said Cory Lawson, director. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s theater in a way that isn’t always experienced.”
This play is interactive by asking audience members to take on an active role in the story telling of the main character who is making a list of every thing he finds brilliant and gives him a reason to get up in the morning.
While those reasons begin as simple things that everyone has probably overlooked at some point in their life, like No. 1, ice cream, No. 2, water fights; or something everyone can agree on, No. 6, rollercoasters; the reasons begin to evolve as the character ages and grows in the play.
Lawson said the great thing about this play, and the reason why he became interested in playing a part, is its ability to bring to light conversations that can sometimes be difficult to talk about.
“It asks why are those things difficult to talk about…why can’t we do it with a laugh and a nod and smile through the things that are hard,” Lawson said. “This play does a great thing in allowing us to speak about these things, but not in a way that makes us feel embarrassed or ashamed. We can talk about those things without feeling that way, which is nice and it’s important.”
The play begins with the main character, played by Christian Ruiz, who is putting on the play as his final thesis project for his Master of Fine Arts degree at Texas Tech University, telling the story of how he found out his mother had attempted suicide and how the conversation didn’t last very long.
“Mom’s in the hospital because she’s done something stupid,” Ruiz says in the play, while playing the role of his dad.
So, as a 7-year-old child, he starts a list of everything brilliant in his life with the intentions of giving it to his mom to remind her of why she’s here.
But, the play transforms into the main characters own journey of addressing mental health and the impacts of the mental health of his loved ones on his own life.
“It’s a one-person show about a narrator whose mother has depression and has had multiple suicide attempts and how he grapples with how that has affected him throughout his own life,” Ruiz said. “The show talks about depression and suicide, but the goal of the show is to talk about what is life affirming. What are the joys of living.”
Ruiz said the play illicits the audience in telling the main character’s story, by playing minor roles and holding up cue cards with brilliant things.
“Those are things that are life affirming about this character who comes to grasp with what it means to be an adult, what it means to have generational mental illness problems,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz said he was drawn to this play because of his own family struggles with mental health and how those struggles impacted him.
“Mental health, especially in my own family, has been a very big and prominent topic in my life, especially with my own mother and sister,” Ruiz said. “I really enjoy this show because it doesn’t dwell in the sadness, it doesn’t dwell in the fear or anger; it’s about what it is that keeps you going.”
Ruiz said he felt this play was important for him to bring to life, especially in a time where a lot of people are struggling with mental health and the question of what it means to be alive.
“Especially in a time like this, with Covid and the pandemic, and everyone being cooped up and dealing with mental health suffering,” Ruiz said. “What keeps you going on to the next thing, what is generally wonderful and life affirming about living. It’s about finding the joys within that and expressing to the audience that they do have things that are wonderful that you can find life affirming.”
Ruiz said he believe audience members will leave the show feeling like they related to something and with a deeper understanding of mental health.
“There is something for everyone to take away from this show,” Ruiz said. “You can relate to this character’s story as it goes through the spectrum of what it means to be a child, to be an adult living with a family member with depression and how that affects your daily life. Audience members can come and find some relatability, and maybe what it mean to live in a world where we celebrate the brilliant and joyous things of living.”
Ruiz said he knew he wanted to perform his thesis project at the Wallace Theater in Levelland after seeing the Woman in Black production at the theater in October.
“The experience of being in this space, and it being an old century theater type, was very appealing to me and being able ot be live and on our feet in a time when most productions are on Zoom, online or virtual, getting into a space that allows you to be in person and connect with the audience members was important,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz said he was already familiar with the Wallace Theater, having taught a workshop there a few months back.
“I knew then that this was the space to tell this story,” Ruiz said.
Lawson said audience members should want to see the show for the same reason he wanted to be involved, to see Ruiz’ talented performance.
“[Christian Ruiz] is such a fantastic talent,” Lawson said. “When he asked me to be involved, besides the fact that I love the show itself, when I found out he was going to be doing it, it was a huge draw because he is so talented.
He’s going to leave here and go back to Boston and do big things. Everything I’ve seen so far is so big and believable. He’s the right guy to be doing this.”
The show will also feature a talk back with Ruiz and mental health experts from Texas Tech University to answer and address any comments or questions from the audience regarding mental health.
“With that, our goal is to provide a positive experience for everyone in the audience and provide any resources that might be helpful to continue education and awreness on these issues,” said Alycyn Keeling, executive director at the Wallce Theater.
There will be four performances open to the public next weekend for “Every Brilliant Thing.” The shows are set for Thursday, March 4, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Friday, March 5, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 6, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and Sunday, March 7, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets are available online at wallacetheater.com/events and are $10 for students and $15 for adults.