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Of brilliant things and silver linings

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Have you been told, when you’re at your worst or down in the dumps, to count your blessings instead and look for the silver lining in the clouds? And with luck, the person loves you enough to look for artful and creative ways to cheer you up. It’s even more adorable and significant when it’s your child who does just that.

This is a narrative about a little girl who tries to cheer up her mom, who is dealing with a mental health issue and attempted to take her life

Every Brilliant Thing, a play that focuses on mental health issues, has this for a theme. This is a narrative about a little girl who tries to cheer up her mom who is dealing with a mental health issue and attempted to take her life. She lists all the things that may be mundane and simple to us, adults, but to her are good enough reasons to live.

“This is about a serious issue (mental health), but told in such a beautiful story in a narrative where it introduces humor so it’s kind of a heart-wrenching and hilarious side by side,” says Teresa Herrera, who is an actress, model, TV host and wellness advocate tasked to play the lead role in the critically acclaimed Duncan MacMillan play set to premiere on 2 February at the Zobel de Ayala Recital Hall, Maybank Performing Arts Theater, 26th Street corner 9th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City.

Coincidentally, what brings the message of the play into even greater urgency and focus was the recent passing of a member of a local band, who jumped to his death in macabre fashion as seen live on social media. This happened a day after the play’s press conference. A few days later, and perhaps as a result of this incident, the full implementation of the mental health bill was pushed in the country.

In this unique play, all the characters will be played by one actor with the impromptu participation of some audience members who are tapped to play roles. It is not a monologue, but a narrative, like telling a story and acting it out.

“I want people to have a collective live experience of going through the same emotions,” Herrera shares. “We have the tools for empathy. I would like this play to be that for audiences. Is there a way to recreate this safe circle in the theater, at every show? I want to start a discussion.”

She added, “Mental health affects everyone to some point to some degree and we should take responsibility for our actions. We have to respect this story. It’s about life.”

If you’re shy or easily embarrassed and just want to be an onlooker type of an audience, this writer suggests avoiding eye contact with the performer so she won’t choose you or better yet, sit as far away from the stage or aisles so to be as inaccessible as possible. But to better immerse oneself in the performance, participation is encouraged.

In the excerpt of the performance for the media, the actor (she’s the only one, of course) distributed pieces of paper with numbers assigned to each and corresponding things or description phrases. When his or her number is called, the one holding the paper with the corresponding number will read aloud what’s written on it.

Since the play delves on a delicate subject, Teresa had to internalize her role, which is a male character in the original version of the writer.

“Because obviously I’m the only one working on it, and aside from rehearsal, I did a lot of internal preparations. I had to create a character from the inside out, a lot of imagery work, a lot of creating the moments in my mind, being specific with my relations to persons, places, objects and events and really creating those memories in my mind because it’s the only way for me to really help to learn the story and learn the script.”

Teresa need not emphasize further on the importance of one’s favorite things or blessings in ensuring mental well-being. When asked about her brilliant things, Teresa utters: family, kids, nature, the arts and yoga.

Director Jenny Jamora, for her part, named family, psychiatrist, community gatherings, jeans (an inside joke which she didn’t expound upon) and FIFA (football).

And the performance does not end there.

In post-show discussions, The Sandbox Collective invites several mental health experts to engage the audience in a dialogue about the topic. Also to be promoted are support groups, suicide hotlines, mental health consultations and various coping mechanisms to raise awareness with audiences.

HERRERA having a light moment with director Jenny Jamora.

The play produced by The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical has been staged in locations across the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, South Korea, and even filmed for an HBO documentary in 2016. Tickets are now available through https://ticketworld.com.ph or through 0956-2004909.

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