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Marianna Bassham is well-known in Boston for her work on stage, both at SpeakEasy (Hand To God, A Future Perfect, In The Next Room (or the Vibrator Play), Reckless, and Blackbird) and many others, like Actors’ Shakespeare Project, the Huntington, Commonwealth Shakespeare, and more. But as she makes her SpeakEasy directing debut with EVERY BRILLIANT THING, we sat down with Marianna to find out what makes this one-woman show so special.
What attracted you to direct EVERY BRILLIANT THING?
I’ll answer that with my own question: What are the events in our lives where we get to unite, in person, with strangers or our loved ones… in joy? …in grief? There is ongoing community like church and family and neighborhood; and then there’s these brief moments, such as watching a horror movie in a crowded theater, joining a protest march, attending a memorial service, or sharing glasses with strangers during an eclipse. And then, of course, there are plays! Every time we go to the theatre, we get a chance to unplug from our devices. But in this particular instance, the possibility for connection is higher than in your average play with a fourth wall and a darkened house. I saw this play as a such a joyous occasion (but it’s okay to feel other things, too) and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
What were the unique challenges this show presented to you as a director?
How to shape a production, cover logistics, and be cool with so many “known unknowns” and the dreaded “unknown unknowns” were all challenges. We can only plan so much, and it will never be the same show twice. And solo shows are intense to rehearse because of the extreme focus required and the responsibility that the performer has. But it isn’t really a solo show. The audience is the most necessary ingredient, and we are so delighted you are finally with us!
What has been your own personal response to the play?
I count myself as someone who is wary of audience participation—like, do NOT come at me with the chicken dance or make me sing! But there are a few shows that are so dear to my heart because the audience participation that I, and the people around me, felt inspired to step into (much to our surprise!) created this unforgettably fun, funny, exciting experience. I think this show provides that kind of experience. But it requires just a dash of bravery from all of us. That is my favorite thing about the play: this flash community aspect.
Do you keep your own list of “brilliant things?”
I do now! I’ve long been a fan of the practice of naming things I’m grateful for at the end of the day. But the “rules” of the list in the play—no repetitions, not too many material things, etc.—have challenged me to be specific and find new joy everywhere. Not a bad thing!