Play lets its au­di­ence share rea­sons to live

Calgary Herald - - YOU - LOUIS B. HOB­SON

Toronto ac­tor Jenna-Lee Hyde is hav­ing a bril­liant ex­pe­ri­ence and she wants to share it with Cal­gar­i­ans.

Hyde is step­ping into some big shoes to star in Bri­tish play­wright Dun­can Macmil­lan’s award-win­ning play Ev­ery Bril­liant Thing, which toured the United King­dom and North Amer­ica with Bri­tish co­me­dian Jonny Don­a­hoe.

Don­a­hoe’s ver­sion, which was turned into an HBO spe­cial, played at the One Yel­low Rab­bit High Per­for­mance Rodeo in 2017. Now Hyde will bring it to Cal­gary via Fire Exit Theatre and Burnt Thicket Theatre.

Ev­ery Bril­liant Thing looks at de­pres­sion, how it can lead to sui­cide at­tempts and how this im­pacts other fam­ily mem­bers. The nar­ra­tor of the story ex­plains how, as a young child, her mother’s de­pres­sion es­ca­lated. Her father said it was be­cause the girl’s mother couldn’t find any­thing worth liv­ing for. The lit­tle girl made sticky notes of all the bril­liant, won­der­ful things in life like ice cream, rain­bows, pup­pies, kung fu movies and shoot­ing milk out of your nose.

Through the course of the per­for­mance, the nar­ra­tor re­counts how the mother’s de­pres­sion be­came her own and how she re­ally had to find those bril­liant rea­sons to keep on liv­ing.

Macmil­lan’s play is infused with hu­mour and the play it­self reaches out to au­di­ences, giv­ing them sticky notes that they ’ll insert into the play when called upon. Hyde in­sists this is not au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion but au­di­ence in­te­gra­tion.

“It’s not some­thing any­one should be afraid of. It’s the gen­tlest way of in­volv­ing au­di­ence mem­bers. It’s what makes each per­for­mance unique,” says Hyde, who started this mini-tour in Saska­toon where she be­gan her per­for­mance and writ­ing ca­reers.

She says Ev­ery Bril­liant Thing is not re­ally her show, but “rather it be­longs to the au­di­ence. They give it its real life. I’m there to tell the story and to fa­cil­i­tate the magic thing that hap­pens at ev­ery per­for­mance.”

Ev­ery Bril­liant Thing was per­formed by Don­a­hoe orig­i­nally at the 2014 Ed­in­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val, where it was such an enor­mous hit that it was in­vited for a four­month run in New York.

Hyde says she is ex­cited to bring a fe­male voice to the char­ac­ter.

“This is such a univer­sal story that the sex of the nar­ra­tor is not re­ally an is­sue and I feel com­fort­able step­ping into the char­ac­ter.

“It’s vi­tal we talk about men­tal­health is­sues and how they im­pact not just the per­son deal­ing with them but ev­ery­one in their cir­cle. So many of us can re­late to what hap­pens when we are tak­ing care of a par­ent and for­get­ting to care for our­selves and how im­por­tant it is to re­mem­ber life is pre­cious and worth liv­ing.”

Verb Theatre pre­sented Macmil­lan’s play Lungs. Stephen Wald­schmidt, who di­rects this ver­sion of Ev­ery Bril­liant Thing, also di­rected We Are the Body, She Has A Name and Hockey Dad: A Play in Three Pe­ri­ods, for his Burnt Thicket Theatre in Cal­gary.

Ev­ery Bril­liant Thing opens Fire Exit Theatre’s 17th sea­son and runs in the Arts Com­mons Engi­neered Air Theatre Oct. 17 to 21 with per­for­mances Wednesday to Satur­day at 7:30 p.m. with 2 p.m. mati­nees on Satur­day and Sun­day.

Tick­ets are $20 and $25 and are avail­able at 403-640-4617 or on­line at tick­ets@fire­exit.ca

Jenna-Lee Hyde

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