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Sleeve Notes

“...I loved the gatefold sleeves, the artwork, I love reading through the acknowledgements and the sleeve notes, the story of the making of the object.”
—Every Brilliant Thing


  1. Every Brilliant Thing began its life in 2006 as a monologue/short story that Duncan Macmillan wrote as a thank you/apology gift for his friend Rosie Thomson. She had previously appeared in a Macmillan play and had no lines.
  2. Thomson first performed the piece, called “Sleeve Notes,” for the Miniaturists at Southwark Playhouse.
  3. Some time later, Macmillan performed a tweaked version of the monologue at an event in which writers read their own work. The monologue was then performed again and again in and around London (Theatre503, the Union Theatre, Trafalgar Studios, the Old Red Lion, Village Underground, 93 Feet East, the Latitude Festival) by Thomson, Macmillan, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and others.
  4. In 2012, Macmillan and director George Perrin discussed revisiting the monologue as a full-length piece.
  5. The full-length play, titled Every Brilliant Thing, was first produced by Paines Plough and Pentabus Theatre (directed by George Perrin; co-written by and starring Jonny Donahoe) at the Ludlow Fringe Festival in June 2013.


  1. The text of this production is unique to the Geffen. Macmillan invites each production of Every Brilliant Thing to adjust the script to the specifics of its location and performer.
  2. Properties Master Rick Gilles led the production team in gathering over 200 knitted blankets for the construction of the canopy envisioned by Scenic Designer Sibyl Wickersheimer. Blankets were sourced from flea markets, antique/thrift stores, and eBay sellers across the US.
  3. The script suggests that the audience should be lit at all times. To achieve a sense of comfortable inclusivity, Lighting Designer Benedict Conran used the canopy to generate a softbox effect, creating ambient house light without spotlighting any individual audience member.
  4. Costume Designer Samantha C. Jones crafted an approachable clothing look to compliment the canopy. Some guiding principles of the design: No to “grief cardigans.” Yes to elements of whimsy.
  5. Test audiences were invited into rehearsals on day four. Intimacy Director Amanda Rose Villarreal interviewed participants after, gathering feedback to calibrate moments of audience interaction.

Daniel K. Isaac’s system for processing notes during rehearsal: Post-Its. They are color-coded by date and type. Categories include: question, overarching note, improvisation to keep, and improvisation to discontinue.

A Rocky Start

During the first week of rehearsals, Associate Director Austin Tooley stepped on a screw when he left his apartment, Production Stage Manager Colleen Danaher was rear-ended on her way to the theater, and Performer Daniel K. Isaac was stung by a bee during lunch break.

There Are No Limits In Jazz

The script of Every Brilliant Thing contains many references to American jazz music, which is beloved by the play’s “Dad.” In preparation for the Geffen production, the creative team and Sound Designer Stephanie Lynn Yackovetsky discussed the meaning that jazz might have to a Dad who had emigrated from South Korea to the US (the family history imagined by Daniel K. Isaac)—rather than to a British Dad, as in the original production.

Looking at the personal journeys of first-wave Korean jazz musicians like Lee Pan-geun, Park Sung-yeon, and Ryu Bok-sung provided a roadmap for understanding Dad’s introduction to and love of jazz. All three artists first heard American jazz on US military radio and developed their own relationships with the genre. In the same way that Duncan Macmillan envisioned jazz as providing a communicative language for “two English men who don’t necessarily express their emotions with much articulacy,” Korean jazz artists have also pointed to the power of the genre in expressing emotion. In a 2018 interview with The Korea Times, Park Sung-yeon noted that “There are no limits in jazz. It always lacks something and that is what artists need to fill in.” Furthermore, jazz “is not about being popular, it’s about the soul.’’

In a 2014 interview with Branding In Asia, jazz musician Jumi Lee suggested that jazz is an expressive outlet for the Korean idea of “han,” a complex sense of lasting sorrow or resentment that is tied to injustice: “Historically, we were and are suppressed... In our impaired emotion, for us, music is so open and limitless, especially jazz. Because of these characteristics, we can express and take out all our instinctive emotions and han through jazz.”

Keeping It Light

While jazz is integral to the world of the play, pop, soul, and dance music were integral to the rehearsal room. Production Assistant Dani Jaramillo curated upbeat warm-up and notes playlists featuring Carly Rae Jepsen, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kylie Minogue, and more.

Werther & Papageno Effects

In contrast to the Werther Effect: the Papageno Effect, a reference to the Mozart opera The Magic Flute, refers to the idea that providing alternatives to suicide can be a powerful way to prevent it. In real life, the Papageno Effect can be put into practice by providing crisis line information and other resources in relation to stories of suicide and by encouraging folks who may be at risk of suicide to create a safety plan and to eliminate access to lethal means in their homes.

Geffen Playhouse is proud to partner with the Greater Los Angeles and Central Coast Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on this production of Every Brilliant Thing. Resources on suicide prevention are available in the lobby post-show and at www.afsp.org/LA.

For immediate support in a crisis:

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or Text 988
Trevor Project (for LGBTQ+ Youth): Call 1-866-488-7386 or Text 678-678
Trans Lifeline Hotline: Call 877-565-8860

Every Brilliant Thing

SEPT 6 – OCT 15, 2023
Written by Duncan Macmillan
with Jonny Donahoe
Directed by Colm Summers
Featuring Daniel K. Isaac

“Ice cream.” “Water fights.” “Peeing in the ocean and nobody knows.” A boy’s handwritten list to cheer up his despondent mom becomes a surprisingly funny and poignant ode to humanity. Daniel K. Isaac (Billions) takes audiences on a transcendent and tender coming-of-age journey that reminds us to pay attention to life’s smallest joys—and to each other.


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