Every Brilliant Thing About Every Brilliant Thing

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A senior’s Capstone takes center stage

When Ethan Won, star of Pacific University Theater Department’s Every Brilliant Thing, first came across the script for the production, he felt an immediate connection to the piece. “There were a lot of random things that really resonated with me,” Won recalls. “The material in it, I really, really enjoyed. But there’s also a lot of really weird, strange coincidences throughout the script.” Like a twist of fate, simple details such as important dates in time and pieces of dialogue struck a familiar chord with Won and, in part, led to Every Brilliant Thing being his choice of production. 

   While not involved in choosing the play, director Hayes Guay also felt a connection to the show. “I just think it’s a really important thing to talk about,” Guay explains. “[It’s] a really personal subject matter that I think everyone has some kind of connection to.”

   The play was written by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, and performed for the first time in 2013. It highlights the story of a boy attempting to console his dispirited mother. He writes a list of good things about the world for her, titling it “Every Brilliant Thing”. 

   Pacific’s production of Every Brilliant Thing was brought to life thanks to Won’s senior capstone project. For the theater department, seniors have a choice between writing, performing, or directing in a play, depending on their specialty. In Won’s case, this meant a performance. 

   “The process started for me almost a full year ago at this point,” Won remarked. “What I did was Google, ‘best one-man plays,’ and then I narrowed it down to this one.” Upon getting the script approved by Ellen Margolis, Chair of the Theater Department, Guay, Won, and the production team got the rehearsal process up and running with a couple of readings last semester, and full rehearsals starting in January. 

   For Guay, the production process began not long after Won presented Every Brilliant Thing to Margolis last year. Guay graduated from Pacific in 2022. Having worked with Guay on previous projects, Won was eager to have them back on set and invited them back to direct the show. 

   “It’s great for me to be able to come back and do this as a graduate,” Guay expresses. “Getting to work with Ellen and Tal, the two professors in the department, has been really awesome. They’re super supportive.” 

   Once the team was assembled, they were able to get to work on the production. 

   For a show like Every Brilliant Things, this isn’t always an easy task. While the story certainly has its funny moments, it tackles many difficult topics, such as depression and suicide. 

    “[We’re] bringing this big, scary topic into a room where we can all think about it together,” Guay explains. “And hopefully to safely know that we all have some kind of similarity on this big, scary topic.” 

   However, although caution should be taken when making plans to see the show, the goal of Every Brilliant Things is to bring to light these struggles and remind people of the good things in life.

   “It’s really interesting the way that it’s done,” Won explains. “There are definitely very tender emotional moments, but I’d say overall, it’s very hopeful.” The script takes a look at the reality of depression in a way that Won, Guay and the production team hopes will make people feel less alone.    

   In the spirit of togetherness, the Theater Department would like to include not just their own list of “brilliant things,” but anyone else who has something to add. “Part of the story is that the character makes a list of what he calls ‘every brilliant thing,’” Guay explains. “He makes literally a list of a million brilliant reasons to keep going, things to smile about. We are putting together a super long list. If people want to add to that, it would be really amazing to have some audience additions to that.” 

   The audience participation doesn’t end there. The play will work in a more interactive performance and allow Won to show off his improvisation skills (along with the hour’s worth of dialogue already in the script). “It really brings in some kind of experimental theater,” Guay remarks. “I think It’ll be really, really good to show off this side of the theater program that isn’t always shown.” 

   With only a minor setback in January from the infamous snowstorm that blew through Oregon, preparations for Every Brilliant Thing seemed to run smoothly. In the last week before the show, Guay, Won, and the rest of the team got to add the final touches to costumes, props, and sound, and finally see their hard work pay off. 

   “You might be very surprised to find how much of a show comes together in the last week,” Won mentions. “Only now we’re going to really get to start seeing me fully live in this character. It really allows us to see the whole shape and structure of the show. That’s going to be really fun.” 


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