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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Three Bone Theatre production focuses on mental health, laughs
Comedy 'Every Brilliant Thing' May 17-19
Published Wednesday, May 16, 2018 8:45 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Black people need help, too.

Three Bone Theatre’s production of “Every Brilliant Thing,” which heads to Duke Energy Theatre at Spirit Square May 17-19, is an adaptation of Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe’s comedy about depression. The production takes on a different look based on director Robin Tynes’ casting of Tania Kelly, who brings a female voice to a role initially cast as a man when it premiered on the West End in 2015. It also adds the perspective of a woman of color in approaching mental health, which has stigmas regarding race and gender.

Tania Kelly stars in Three bone Theatre’s production of “Every Brilliant Thing.”

“Women are expected to be the caretakers, the rock of the family,” Kelly said. “We’re supposed to take care of everybody else, but people fail to remember who is going to take care of the caretaker? In the black community, I’ve heard this many times to where going to a therapist, talking to someone at all about your mental health issues, that’s a white thing. That’s so incredibly unfair for us to think that way, to deprive ourselves of mental health, because that’s what white people do. We are all people who have emotions, feelings and issues that need to be dealt with. The fact that that stigma is still around, it really prevents us, and it prevents a lot of people from having open conversations that could really ultimately save a life.”

Said Tynes: “One of the interesting things about using Tania in the role as a black woman, that’s one of the demographics in this country that has the least access to mental health care. Putting her voice center stage and at the center of that conversation is really powerful. I think a lot of times women are hesitant to talk about mental health and struggling. We’re supposed to be able to do it all. There’s particularly a stigma within the black community of getting help for mental health issues. While the choice to cast Tania wasn’t driven by her gender or her race, it has definitely impacted the show in the way we see the story.”

While Tynes notes the script leaves the role of protagonist open to either gender, constructing the show in this way allows exploration of the mother-daughter relationship.

“The mother-daughter relationship is so interesting and complicated anyway, and then when you layer this experience of really struggling with mental illness and with suicide and suicidal behavior that adds such a different layer to it,” she said. “I was just really interested in exploring that, and as a female director, we are always looking for opportunities to put women center stage.”

Kelly, like her character, has experienced the impact of a parent with mental illness and coming to peace with it.

“I identified with the role very quickly, because my own mother [Linda Perry] has bipolar manic depression,” Kelly said. “I’ve dealt with that my entire life. My character has to come to grips with needing help. There’s a line in the show where my character says, ‘I now realize that it’s important to talk about things.’”  

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