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"Every Brilliant Thing" brings awareness to National Suicide Prevention Month

Every brilliant thing
The Illuminated Stage Theatre Company's production of Every Brilliant Thing at The Perkinson Center for the Arts & Education. (Photo Credit: Dave Jones)

To kick of its inaugural season, The Illuminated Stage Theatre Company presents the one-person show Every Brilliant Thing starring Louise Keeton and directed by Julie Fulcher-Davis. Written by British playwright Duncan Macmillan and comedian Jonny Donahoe, the story explores a mother’s depression and suicide through the eyes of her child as she grows up.

The Illuminated Stage offers this show during September’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in an effort to support those affected by mental illness.

“We hope, in some small way, that this piece of theatre will continue the effort to diminish social stigmas surrounding mental illness,” explained Fulcher-Davis, also The Illuminated Stage’s artistic director. “And allow for more conversations and proactive initiatives to lovingly, respectfully and appropriately address mental health issues in our communities.”

While often funny and endearing, the story delves into the raw and painful experience of a daughter whose mother struggles with depression and ultimately loses her battle to suicide. The script is a direct and personal conversation with the audience about the daughter’s first exposure to her mother’s attempt to take her own life when she was six-years-old, and it traverses the evolving ways in which the daughter deals with her mother’s illness throughout her childhood, teen and adult years.

The title, Every Brilliant Thing, is a reference to the list her daughter creates of all the brilliant and beautiful things that exist in the world in order to help her mother feel happy. As the daughter grows, her list of brilliant things changes and evolves to reflect her own personal struggles and triumphs.

“The character grounds themself in the present and acknowledges something that is brilliant in their world,” says Keeton, who portrays the daughter. “And the more you view the world through this brilliant lens, and the more you're present for it, the more your world is filled with brilliance, always. That's what this show is.”

Keeton, who is an employee of VPM, uses her own issues with disability and suicidal ideation to bring truth and dimension to her performance.

“This show really made me acknowledge my experience and come to terms with it,” she explained. “I haven't had a suicidal thought in years. And that’s because I am surrounded by love and support, I go to therapy, and I ground myself in the present. This present world I've built for myself is so beautiful.”

The Illuminated Stage also offers mental health resources in their playbill and in the lobby for those who attend. Their goal is to bring greater awareness and support for the prevention of suicide.

Every Brilliant Thing is on stage Fridays and Saturday nights at 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM through October 3 at the Perkinson Center for the Arts and Education in Chester. Masks are required and socially distanced seating is available. Purchase tickets online.

Correction: this article has been updated to reflect Louise Keeton's employment status and to provide photo credit for the main image.