When Every Brilliant Thing had its Philippine premiere last year, the hope was to start the conversation on a seemingly taboo issue that Filipinos have long experienced and conveyed in hushed tones. Mental illness had just started to seep into the daily consciousness of people as an urgent and legitimate disease that affects millions of people across the globe. In the same vein, the concept of mental health was just beginning to find its way front and center through the steady stream of advocates, spokespersons and organizations seeking to end the stigma and hoping to start a meaningful dialogue.
Similarly, the man behind Every Brilliant Thing sought to say something that wasn’t being said, at least not in the best way possible. In the words of Duncan Macmillan, “With Every Brilliant Thing, I felt there should be a way to talk about depression and suicidal depression because it’s so common, but to talk about it in a way that is constructive and complex and nuanced and grown up and unflinching. But also accessible and funny.” In creating this masterpiece, Macmillan presented a way for difficult themes to find an appropriate narrative that audiences could finally embrace.
The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical took an enormous leap of faith with the premiere of Every Brilliant Thing, praying that Filipino audiences were ready to hear and see its burgeoning message of hope amidst mental illness. As it had turned out, the message spread like wildfire and audiences came in droves to experience interactive theater at its finest—“a one-woman play that beautifully reminds and immerses audiences to find delight in the everyday” as beautifully touted by Click The City.
Every Brilliant Thing will star actress, model and TV host Teresa Herrera whose recent performance credits include Black Mask 2, Dogeaters and the Asian premiere of Love, Loss and What I Wore. She was also the host of Project Runway Philippines and the host & executive producer of Runway TV Asia. Teresa will be alternating with actress, multimedia host and entrepreneur Kakki Teodoro. Kakki received training at the National Institute for Dramatic Arts in Sydney, Australia. She was most recently seen in Himala: Isang Musikal, Aurelio Sedisyoso, Rak of Aegis, to name a few. Every Brilliant Thing earned six citations in the recent Philstage Gawad Buhay midyear citations, including Outstanding Female Lead for both Herrera and Teodoro.
Returning to the director’s chair is Philstage Gawad Buhay nominee Jenny Jamora who looks forward to revisiting the piece once again. One can only look forward to an even deeper look into the reality of mental health and illness through the brilliance of both actresses. Jamora states, “As with most reruns I’ve had a chance to work on, you can expect the text to be more like a second skin already to the actors. Passage of time, the
lessons from the first run, and all of one’s experiences in a year give the actor a deeper, richer reading of the text.”
With rehearsals underway and the festival going full throttle, the new hope is to extend and expand the conversation on mental health further, and to perhaps, normalize the conversation as a necessary and commonplace thing. As Jenny Jamora elaborates: ”I hope after EBT, we all continue to expand the language about mental health and open up stigma- free dialogue about it. As the show allows the audience to shape their particular evening’s (or matinee’s) show via different points of audience participation, so every member of the audience is called to be part of our nation’s mental health conversation.”
Every Brilliant Thing will return alongside Lungs, another Duncan Macmillan masterpiece, through a month-long festival called SANDBOX FEST 2020. Both shows will return through a shared space and brand new interpretation. As director Jenny Jamora excitedly shares, “We will have a new interpretation of the performance space, as we now have Jodee Aguillon designing the shared space for Every Brilliant Thing and Lungs”.
Lungs director Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan also shares how the festival’s format will serve to enrich the experience of audiences through both shows. He shares, “I want audiences to take away how intense, complicated and beautiful relationships can be.” Pamintuan will be directing Lungs a second time around alongside Caisa Borromeo as assistant director. Completing the artistic team are Jodinand Aguillon as production designer and Miguel Panganiban as lighting designer.
SANDBOX FEST 2020 will run at the Zobel de Ayala Recital Hall, 2/F Maybank Performing Arts Theater, 9th Avenue cor. 26th Street, BGC, Taguig City from March 6 until 29, 2020. Tickets are now available through Ticketworld online or 891.9999 and The Sandbox Collective at 0956 200 4909 / 0917 554 5560 / 586 7105. Festival passes are now available through The Sandbox Collective.