Published August 17, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor
Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre (CityRep) uses their stage to provide thought-provoking, moving theatre as well as community outreach through art. This is a unique dynamic that Founding Artistic Director Donald Jordan prides himself on most. Says Jordan, “CityRep has a history of story offerings that are a part of our service. We’ve previously done the shows Next To Normal, Night Mother, The Laramie Project, and The Normal Heart.” In that same vein is the season opener Every Brilliant Thing. An Oklahoma professional premiere, Jordan says “If you like cutting-edge theatre, this is the play for you. It changes perspectives. It creates a profound sense of community engagement.”
Written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, Every Brilliant Thing is a one-man show starring CityRep artist and Oklahoma City native Jon Haque. The story follows a young man from the time he’s 7 years old, then as a teenager, and on through the next 30 years of his life; a life plagued with heartbreak. As a 7-year-old, the character at the center of the story tries to cure his mother’s deep depression by making a list of all the things in life worth living for. That list grows as he grows, and it’s this list he is sharing with the audience. It has been called “hilarious and heart-wrenching”, and been hailed as a play that “strikes a balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter”. And it’s sure to open a dialogue for all who get to witness it.
Every Brilliant Thing is directed by CityRep affiliated artist Linda Kay Leonard. Of the play and Haque’s upcoming performance, Leonard says “This play is at times very funny, and at times very poignant. It will take audiences on an emotional journey, as long as they fall in love with Jon. A one-man show is never a walk in the park, but Jon has the flexibility that’s required to move through it. He will be a facilitator for the story and the audience. When I first met Jon, he was an exciting young performer. He was energetic and unbridled. Now he’s layered, textured. He’s the best of his generation.”
Each performance of Every Brilliant Thing actually begins in the lobby, with the actor greeting audience members as they enter the theatre. Haque will speak with audience members and inform them that audience participation is integral to the show. Leonard notes, “Every Brilliant Thing breaks all conventions of theatre. It’s so unique, and it’s a different show every night, because the audience is different every night. They’ve never come to a rehearsal. We look forward to a non-traditional experience and the chance for our audiences to have a real human experience in such a communal way. It teaches audiences about mindfulness. In today’s world, communication is so one-sided. We aren’t required to respond to everything. We can look at our phones and just turn off what we see, without responding at all. With theatre, it is such a collaborative art form. And this play is about communication. That’s something we can do in live theatre that we can’t in other art forms. In theatre, you can’t ignore your audience. We all learn something from each other during this show.”
Jordan agrees, saying “The first time I saw Every Brilliant Thing, it was just electric to me. It’s all these things; performance art, improv, live theatre- all poured into a blender and mixed up together. I immediately thought, we’ve got to do this play. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, remarkable, joyous, and profoundly moving. It’s a truly great piece of theatre.”
Every Brilliant Thing is presented in community partnership with the Green Shoe Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to improving and impacting individual lives and communities through self-discovery, awareness, education, programs and resources. Green Shoe and CityRep will team up to provide talkbacks after select performances as well as having resources available in the lobby, in keeping with their shared mission of community service. More information about Green Shoe can be found at greenshoe.org.