For more than 40 years, Grandstreet Theatre has entertained and educated audiences with live theater productions in Helena.
Now, with the backing of a $50,000 Health Kids, Healthy Families® grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT), Grandstreet is taking its show on the road. The goal is to open collective community dialogues on depression and suicide across Montana through a little British play with a big message.
The grant was awarded at a surprise announcement during Grandstreet's Tuesday in June fundraising event on June 19.
“This grant is absolutely transformational in terms of what it will do for Grandstreet, but more importantly, what I hope it will do for the larger community of Montana,” said Kal Poole, Grandstreet Managing Director. “… Thus far we have been a very local community theatre and this is our opportunity to introduce ourselves to the state and bring what I find to be one of the impactful, important pieces of theatre I’ve encountered to our many communities. And it’s on a topic that I think is desperately needed to engage some dialogue and get some help to the wider Montana population.”
The play, “Every Brilliant Thing,” presents a simple message that suicide isn’t worth it and the world is brimming with things worth living for. Grandstreet has an ambitious plan to launch a 50-stop, 10-week tour with the goal of reaching more than 3,000 Montanans, including at least 750 teens. Both urban and rural communities will be featured in the tour to ensure a broad range of audiences can participate, including all ages, genders, ethnicities, income levels, sexual preferences, and professions.
“I think ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ will be incredibly well received around Montana,” Poole added. “… What BCBSMT has done for Grandstreet Theatre and the state of Montana, with this particular grant, just floors me. There is so much good will that comes out of this organization.”
Healthy Kids, Healthy Families is a signature initiative of BCBSMT and part of the company’s ongoing commitment to invest in and partner with nonprofit organizations that offer sustainable, measurable programs to reach children and their families in the five following areas:
- Physical activity
- Disease prevention and management
- Substance abuse prevention
- Suicide prevention
This $50,000 HKHF grant is one of four BCBSMT awards each year.
"Grandstreet’s proposal couldn't come at a more opportune time," said John Doran, vice president of external affairs of BCBSMT. "This is an incredibly innovative and welcoming way to have a difficult conversation, and hopefully, it results in an open and honest discussion about an urgent subject for all Montanans.”
"What better way than to use art and a little humor to break down those conversational barriers that exist when talking about something that is often stigmatized. We're proud to partner with Grandstreet in this grand endeavor."
Suicide – the second leading cause of death for children and adolescents in Montana –continues to be a scourge throughout the state, as demonstrated by data from a variety of sources like the 2017 Montana Strategic Suicide Prevention Plan, the 2017 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, and the Montana 2016 Suicide Mortality Review Team Report.
“Suicide rates are ridiculously high across Montana and are some of the highest in the nation,” Poole said. “What this particular show does is speaks to the mental health issues and how those affect and impact individuals, their families, friends and communities. But it is done so in a way that is so positive, uplifting, and so beautiful that it isn’t going to feel like a suicide prevention lecture. It’s a beautiful piece of theatre.”
Grandstreet leaders, like many Montanans, recognize the need for support and open dialogue, and felt the message in “Every Brilliant Thing” could help break down many of the barriers that exist.
“This show will engage in dialogue in a way that is fun, funny and uplifting and creates great opportunity to destigmatize the mental health piece that so many people often struggle with in silence,” Poole said. “People can often get in spirals of depression where their mental health can go downward. This play is good to help people focus on the beautiful things in life and deliberately spiraling upward. We hope this series of shows across Montana will give individuals and families the opportunity and courage to have open dialogue.”
Additionally, organizers are planning community-led talk-back sessions after each performance, focusing on local resources, culture, and tools to extend and safeguard the conversation. Grandstreet also intends to collaborate with community health care professionals and organizations to strengthen and expand the message.