New Beginnings, a local nonprofit that provides psychological counseling and other necessary services to the low-income and homeless communities of Santa Barbara County, promised a night of fun and laughter with their 2022 fundraising presentation, Every Brilliant Thing.
What was not promised — but was certainly delivered — was a performance about mental illness that was poignant, clever, and educational. Performer (and co-writer of the piece) Jonny Donahoe is a charming host who brings to life the story of growing up with a mother suffering from suicidal depression. To discourage her troubling emotional problems, young Jonny writes a list of all the “brilliant” things in the world that make him happy, hoping to inspire change in his tormented parent. As he grows older, the list gets longer; and though it can’t change the trajectory of his mother’s illness, it does manifest joy for many people in a variety of unexpected ways.
There is still far too little education and conversation about mental illness — a blight that directly affects close to a quarter of the U.S. population. Every Brilliant Thing focuses beyond one woman’s struggle and highlights how her disease affects her family. The production is lighthearted while still striving for an honest representation of the toll that mental illness takes. Not only is this one-man-show engaging in its own right, it also incorporates audience participation that keeps the crowd invested.
Every Brilliant Thing is an appropriate production to be presented by a counseling center, but also a call to action for the community to support the important work and services that New Beginnings provides. Maintained by donations, the organization is able to offer low-cost counseling sessions, safe parking and re-homing solutions for the homeless, veteran services, and life-skills education. To make a donation or get involved with New Beginnings, go to their website at sbnbcc.org.