The Fort Wayne Civic Theatre is producing one of the most fascinating plays written in the last 10 years, Every Brilliant Thing. Both its subject matter and its execution will provide an exciting new experience in the theater.
The title of the play is taken from the list a man composes over an entire lifetime. He begins to make a list of “Every brilliant thing about the world. Everything worth living for,” when he is seven years old. He does this because he is trying to communicate with his mother, who has attempted suicide. He wants to convince her that life is indeed worth living.
This description of the plot might sound dark, but the play simply is not. The play celebrates the yin and yang of life, the sweet and sour, the joyful and painful, the extremes of happiness and sadness. It reminds us that to fully experience one of them, you must know how both of them feel.
The list, which is built in fits, starts depending on where he is in his life’s journey. It grows into the hundreds, then thousands, and is the driving force that keeps his life moving forward, regardless of if he is living through a period of great joy or great tragedy.
Theatergoers who give this play a chance will be part of a life-affirming 90 minutes in the theater that will stay with you long after the final bow.
Frymier — Plus Audience Participation
The play is directed by Brad Beauchamp, and stars Todd Frymier — and only Todd Frymier.
The cast consists of one actor, except when Frymier drafts audience members to become characters he encounters throughout his life. Those are the other humans who cross his path and leave an indelible mark.
For those who just had a moment of premature stage fright, don’t worry. Audience members will not be strong-armed into being a part of the play if they don’t want to be.
At various times members of the audience become his father, his teacher, even the veterinarian of his beloved dog. Thus, each of the five performances of this production will be a different experience.
When asked how he prepares for a piece like this, Frymier talked about the tools of improvisation. How you rehearse improvisation with an audience when the audience isn’t in the room?
In most rehearsal halls, stage managers sit quietly, occasionally moving furniture around, throwing actors a line when they forget, and taking notes to help facilitate the performance once the play moves into the theater.
But director Brad Beauchamp said that in the rehearsal hall for Every Brilliant Thing, stage managers Shawna Roberts and Clarence Tennis III are also busy responding, giving Frymier different possibilities for what an audience member may say during a performance.
“[I’m trying to understand] the structure of how you hope it will go,” Frymier said. “Knowing the beats, the moments, the information that you have to make sure gets revealed, and then trying to learn how to maneuver the conversations so you get there. What’s in the script usually sets you up for expected responses, but there will always be a wild card.”
New Configuration for the Theater
In addition, the set for the show will have a configuration never seen at the Arts United Center.
If you’re familiar with the space, you’ll be amazed at how it is being used for this production. The script is very specific about needing a space where “the audience is seated in the most democratic way possible, ideally in the round. It is vital that everyone can see and hear each other.”
The Arts United Center is a large proscenium theater, which makes it quite a challenge for a designer to shape the space in a way that meets the script’s directives listed above.
The man who was faced with the challenge is Adam Fletcher, The Civic’s resident set designer.
Fletcher had to transform a space that was built in the Wagnerian style, a space that specifically separates the audience and the performers by a huge proscenium, one that intends to create a magic gulf with real life on one side and pretend life on the other.
“To start with, practicality and making sure the fire marshall was on board with the design were paramount,” Fletcher said. “But at the same time, you keep reminding yourself that your job is to create a space where the actor is not only the focus but is accessible to the audience, and visa-versa, and also do it in a way where patrons who need to be socially distanced from one another can make that choice.”
Support the Theater
Here’s to hoping that Fort Wayne audiences support this production. It is so important that lovers of great productions support our theaters in doing new and exciting work that reveals our humanity in clever, inventive, and surprising ways.
Celebrate the human spirit by attending the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s production of Every Brilliant Thing.