THE NARRATOR enters and walks to audience members around the room as she gives out strips of paper. From the aisle, she walks to the third row on the left side and hands this writer one strip of paper on which was written “5. Things with stripes” in cursive letters. “Hold on it. I’ll explain later,” she says.
The narrator is actress Teresa Herrera who stars in the interactive one-person play, Every Brilliant Thing, which will be presented at the BGC Arts Center in February.
Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing follows the narrator as she tells the story and recalls her perspective as a child dealing with her mother’s depression and attempts at suicide. Hoping to convince her mother to choose life, she writes a list of things that make life worth living.
“Suicide is a social contagion that’s particularly contagious. And so there’s a huge responsibility,” said the playwright in a 2015 interview filmed at the National Theatre in London. “So, one of our big guiding principles as we were devising this show was ‘How do we responsibly make a show about suicide which doesn’t ignore the complex realities but also doesn’t… make people want to kill themselves?’ that was one of the big impulses behind wanting to make it a comedy,” Mr. Macmillan said.
“It’s not a philosophy for living. It’s not a solution to depression. It’s just a way of talking about it and talking about strategies you can implement in order to try and combat it in your own life,” he added.
The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical will be staging the one-woman interactive play, starring Ms. Herrera and directed by Jenny Jamora, from Feb. 2 to 24 at the Zobel de Ayala Recital Hall, BGC Arts Center in Taguig city.
“I think it’s such a serious issue. It’s not something that we can ignore. So, I think now would be a good time to start the discussion, opening it up and start normalizing it and taking away the stigma that causes a lot of people to go further in their depression,” said Ms. Herrera, who said she experienced mental health issues in her 20s, about the importance of the discussions at a press conference last week at the Privato Hotel in Pasig City.
The comedic play’s format involves audience participation as the story play’s out.
“We want people to know and see and acknowledge each other,” said Ms. Herrera. “When we do those improv skits with Mrs. Patterson, the vet, [and] my dad, automatically, the audience is engaged and [you] connect. You connect because you don’t know what to do when you’re in that position which is also part of the fun because I don’t know what they’re about to do.”
Likewise, Ms. Jamora said that the interactive play is immediate shared experience.
“Everybody in the room has an immediate sense of responsibility, as well as an immediate contribution in the creation of the story. Plus, it’s really fun.”
The producers will also conduct post-show discussions with the audience involving mental health experts from partner organizations such as Mental Health PH, The Spring Foundation, and the Philippine Psychiatric Society. The experts will also discuss support groups, suicide hotlines, mental health consultations, and coping mechanisms.
For show tickets, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 0956-200-4909. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman