Provo’s newest theatre company has debut show this weekend

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Mari Joy Asiado performing during a tech rehearsal of “Every Brilliant Thing.” The show involves a lot of audience interaction in addition to monologues. (Bea Albino)

The debut show of Vicariously Staged Productions is a fresh take on the beloved one-man play “Every Brilliant Thing” starring Filipina actress Mari Joy Asiado.

The non-profit theater company was created by BYU alumni to showcase diverse stories and perspectives in Provo.

The debut production was chosen by Asiado, director Skyler Denfeld and producer/CEO Jared Kamauu because of its honest depiction of metal health.

The play was written by Duncan Macmillian with Jonny Donahoe, and has typically starred a male lead. Vicariously Staged said they are flipping the script with a young woman of color bringing her own authentic experiences to the role.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to perform this piece … it was just such a beautiful text,” Asiado explained.

The production crew expressed the importance of experiencing this show, particularly Vicariously Staged’s take, as an authentic depiction of girlhood. Pop culture has dubbed 2023 the “year of the girl” with TikTok trends such as girl math and girl dinner, so the show rides on the impact of that as well as the growing spotlight on mental health, they said.

“It is one of the shows that best conveys the human experience,” Denfeld said. “The way it discusses suicide and depression really is beautiful and asks us to think deeply with the performer.”

“Every Brilliant Thing” is a one-woman show, meaning Asiado is the only actor in the production. The play heavily relies on audience participation for an immersive experience, but Asiado is still alone on-stage.

Asiado and Kamauu in rehearsal. They rehearsed in the West Campus Building at BYU before moving to the Hive Collaborative. (Bea Albino)

“It’s been such a humbling undertaking to be on stage alone,” Asiado said. “I’ve had a lot of anxiety about (it).”

Overcoming her anxiety was one of the biggest miracles she and the production team saw in their development of the show, she said.

The entire project was funded within a month by Indiegogo, a neutral crowdfunding platform, gathering enough funding for four performances in Provo.

“In the end, I don’t feel like we really had to make a compromise anywhere on anything we wanted,” Kamauu said.

He thanked the Hive Collaborative for its support of their young business. The Hive Collaborative is a family-run theatre and event space made to support local creatives in their works.

“One of the biggest miracles (is) just the fact that we found these people who are also just as excited as we are about putting this on and they’re doing everything they can to help us out,” Kamauu said.

The view from the soundbooth at the theatre as Kamauu talks to the crew. Asiado is also a member of the crew as the marketing coordinator. (Elizabeth Williams)

In creating Vicariously Staged Productions, Kamauu aims to create a space for people to share their unique stories and the messages that come with them.

“There’s a lot of talent (here) that doesn’t get the opportunity to be shown a lot … it’s really hard just to break into the industry,” he said.

Denfeld has worked alongside Kamauu in getting the production company off the ground. They met through the BYU theatre department and hope to continue creating together. They expressed their praise and gratitude for each other.

“Jared is a powerhouse management in making things happen and putting shows into motion. He really has been the brains and the brawn,” Denfeld said.

Denfeld is a playwright, along with being a director and actor. Later this season, Kamauu and Denfeld are planning to do a piece Denfeld wrote a few years ago. They said they hope to produce more shows from other local playwrights as well. “Every Brilliant Thing” is only the beginning, according to Vicariously Staged.

The team behind Vicariously Staged’s first production emphasized the emotional impact of “Every Brilliant Thing” and its relevance today.

“There’s so much of a message of the love and joy that you can find in life even in the hard times,” Kamauu said.

Empty set as lighting cues are set. The original script states there is no set. (Elizabeth Williams)

Glenna Andersen, the show’s set designer, wanted to create an intimate setting for Asiado work with. She filled the stage with coordinated clutter in pink themes to further emphasize the authenticity of the show, working with the themes of feminism and girlhood.

“I really wanted … something where you feel like you’ve walked into her bedroom,” Andersen said.

Ultimately, Asiado’s lead performance was the final piece of the puzzle for Vicariously Staged. Denfeld and Kamauu both expressed praises of her approach. Denfeld encouraged her to make the script her own.

According to the production team, Asiado’s life experiences bring something new to the role that Utah hasn’t seen before.

“I’ve leaned into my very specific identity as a Filipino woman … this production by us just marks that new era of change,” she said.

“Every Brilliant Thing” runs Feb. 15-17 at the Hive Collaborative. Tickets can be purchased here.

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