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Utah House Recognizes Every Brilliant Thing Tour

Utah State Representatives Elizabeth Weight (left) and Steve Eliason join the touring companies of Every Brilliant Thing with the official citation honoring the tour and the Festival.

Utah State Representatives Elizabeth Weight (left) and Steve Eliason join the touring companies of Every Brilliant Thing with the official citation honoring the tour and the Festival.

On January 31, the Utah State House of Representatives honored the Utah Shakespeare Festival and its touring production of Every Brilliant Thing for its efforts in suicide prevention. The Festival has offered the play to every high school in the state for no charge.

Two touring companies left Cedar City in October with a goal to perform for as many schools as possible before the middle of February. Thus far it has taken its message of suicide awareness and prevention to more than 45,000 students with 147 performances in 27 counties.

The story of Every Brilliant Thing is simple on the surface. It begins when the lone character in the play, at seven years old, learns that his or her mother is in the hospital after her first attempt to take her own life. Thus, the character begins a list—a list of everything brilliant about the world, everything worth living for. With humor and inventiveness, the story then explores depression and hope, uncertainty and change, relationships and solitude, risk and resilience, guilt and forgiveness. And throughout it all, the protagonist increases the number of brilliant things on the list, and interacts with audience members to share this story of hope.

After the play, the actors and mental health professionals are available to talk to students and offer training, suicide prevention education, and critical connections for students to health service providers. In the end the play offers four clear messages:

1.     You are not alone.

2.     You are not weird.

3.     It gets better.

4.     Life goes on.

The citation recognizes the need for this type of programming, in that “the State of Utah has the highest rate of suicide for youth ten to twenty-four years old and ranks sixth highest in overall suicide rates in the nation.”

The citation concludes: “The Utah State Legislature recognizes the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the professional theatre company at Southern Utah University for its commitment to saving and changing lives through this unique theatrical event and congratulates the Festival on its efforts to be a positive force in communities and in the State of Utah.”

“This is a great honor, and producing this beautiful play across our great state wouldn’t have been possible without support from the Utah State Legislature and our wonderful partners that believed in the mission.” said Donn Jersey, Festival development and communication director. “This effort has saved and changed young lives for the better; for that reason alone, the Utah Shakespeare Festival could not be more proud of this memorable effort to deliver a message of hope to students all over our great state.”

“The student response has been phenomenal,” according to a report prepared by the two tour managers. “Utah students are so wanting to be heard and are willing to share life experiences with us and their peers.”

The citation also recognized the sponsors of the tour: the Utah State Legislature, the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Ashton Family Foundation, the Hemingway Foundation, Southern Utah University, and SUU’s Rural Health Scholars.

For more information on the tour, go to https://www.bard.org/brillianttour-info.

© Utah Shakespeare Festival 2023 www.bard.org