Preview: ‘Every Brilliant Thing,” opening at the Vista Theatre, is guaranteed to find a silver lining in the midst of sadness

The Fools Collaborative has a little gift for these (hopefully) post-pandemic times: live theater. In its new production of “Every Brilliant Thing,” the idea is for the audience to become part of the story and in the process leave behind gloom and sadness.

The one-person show stars Camille Gaston and Nick Haas, who alternate performing the leading role. The show opens Friday, Nov. 11, at the VISTA Theatre in the Tower District, and runs through Nov. 19. I caught up with director Miguel Gastelum to talk about the show.

Pictured above: Camille Gaston in a scene from ‘Every Brilliant Thing.’ Photo: The Fools Collaborative

Q: “Every Brilliant Thing” has a theme of depression, is that right? Were you concerned at all about staging it at a time when we’re coming off one of our most depressing eras in recent history? Or is that the idea?

A: That was 100% our intent with staging this show right now. Yes, the show’s major theme is depression and suicide, however, it deals with said topics in such an uplifting and joyous way that ultimately the show is incredibly life-affirming.

Q: Tell us about the premise of the show.


A: “Every Brilliant Thing” tells the story of a young child confronted with their mother’s depression. Their instinct is to try and cure their mother, so they start to write a list of all the brilliant things in the world, everything worth living for. 1. Ice Cream. 2. Water fights. Staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV. 4. The color yellow. Soon, the list begins to take on a life of its own, and the young child, now an adult, is transformed by the list- it’s changed the way they see the world. The show tackles the often taboo topic of mental health in a joyous, uplifting, and humorous way. The audience joins the storyteller on the journey as they become characters in the story and keepers of the list. “Every Brilliant Thing” contains descriptions of depression, self-harm, and suicide. The show briefly describes a character’s attempted suicides and her death by suicide and includes the specific means that were used.

Q: When you say the words “interactive” and “theater” together, some potential audience members may run for the Sierra foothills. How do you reassure those folks who are terrified of getting dragged up on a stage?

A: I am one of those people! haha! “Every Brilliant Thing” is performed in an intimate venue, with a general light wash over the stage and audience seating, the intent is to blur the line between audience and playing space. The show is a communal experience that relies heavily on the relationship between the performer and the audience. The audience members are not just passive listeners, but active participants in the story-telling process. Any and all audience participation is simple and non-threatening. We won’t embarrass you, we promise!

The Fools Collaborative

Nick Haas in a scene from ‘Every Brilliant Thing.’

Q: Where did the show come from? How is it experiencing the story through the stage different from experiencing it in written form?

A: It actually started as a monologue called “Sleevenotes” that Duncan Macmillan wrote for a friend as a favor/apology for putting her in a show where she only had two lines with her back to the audience. It slowly began to develop into different iterations until it took its final form as the script we are performing today! Obviously, the biggest difference between reading the text to seeing it performed is that it’s alive right in front of your eyes! And with this particular show, you get to be a part of telling the story.

Q: You have two actors cast in the role, and they’ll be alternating. Why this choice?

A: Initially, the thought was to double-cast the show so that we would have built-in covers in case of any COVID illness- we started planning this production back in January when COVID surges were canceling shows left and right. When we began discussing potential performers we knew that we needed to find performers that would complement each other, and ultimately be a resource for one another in terms of their specific strengths. Nick Haas immediately came to mind, he’s got some of the best improv chops around and also serves as an improv coach- which we knew would be an asset for our second performer. Camille Gaston, one of the finest local actors in town familiar to many fans of Good Company Players and Selma Arts Center, also came up in our initial discussions. Her honest and vulnerable acting skills would help us tap into the emotional heart of the production. Collaborating with both of them has been an absolute delight and it’s been so wonderful to see how they influence and inspire each other.

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Q: What’s something that makes life worth living for you personally?

A: Community! After the craziness of COVID and being isolated from people for so long- overlapping with the Save Tower Theatre Protests — I have realized how wonderfully weird our quirky, artistic community is. People make fun of Fresno for a lot of reasons, but the people here are the salt of the earth and some of the best I’ve ever met.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say?

A: I hope that audiences will consider coming out to this production. I know that the interactive element or the subject matter may make some nervous, but the show is such a short and sweet love letter to the simple joys of life. Come spend an hour with us!


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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