every brilliant thing



EVERY BRILLIANT THING was first produced by Paines Plough and Pentabus Theatre, on 28 June 2013 at Ludlow Fringe Festival. The play had its North American premiere at Barrow Street Theatre, New York, on 6 December 2014, where it was presented by Barrow Street Theatre and Jean Doumanian Productions.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.


By Duncan Macmillan

with Jonny Danahoe


In a car full of tired, sweaty childhood friends, driving home from a wedding in Kansas City, I confessed to the friend next to me that I’d been battling some dark thoughts. I talked about the struggle in me, between light and darkness. In his wisdom, he responded, “You see, that’s just it, there is no struggle between light and dark. When you open a door into a dark room, the light from the next room simply floods in. It quickly covers every surface turned in its direction. It moves effortlessly, in no time at all, highlighting the edges and textures and boundaries within its reach. There are still dark corners, darkness still exists. But you can’t make out the landscape in front of you without the light.” As someone who has struggled off and on with undiagnosed depression, I have returned to this conversation often. The struggle in me is not between the light and the dark, the good thoughts and the bad ones. The struggle is just to open the door. There are lots of ways to open the door. Talking to a friend. Talking to a doctor. Practicing yoga. Practicing Gratitude. I see the practice of Gratitude, especially over the course of a lifetime, as a continual choice to let all the good, every brilliant thing, in.


If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Below are options for support:

Each performance of this show features one of the three following actors:

Son: Jonathan Clark

Daughter: Ellen Nikbahkt

Son: Joshua Peterson


Thanks to a generous grant from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville College of Social Work, there are free tickets available throughout the run of this show for any UTKnoxville students, staff, and faculty. Please let others know about this opportunity. Just buy your ticket on Eventbrite with a UTK email address and use the coupon code UTKNOX to take advantage of this generous grant. Thank you, UTK College of Social Work!


Director: Amelia Peterson

Stage Manager: Hannah Jones

Assistant Director: Meghan Nelson

Sound Designer: Tyler Anthony

Costume Designer: Amelia Peterson, featuring pieces from Felding Co.

Marketing Director: Don Chaffer

Production Managers: Joshua Peterson and Hannah Jones

Community Engagement Director: Logan Mahan

Box Office and House Manager: Cameron Ray and Emma Ray

Marketing Graphic Design: Joyanna Hirst and Robin Easter Design


Katy Wolfe
Misty Anderson
Tommy Nguyen
Deaver Shattuck

Advisory Members:
Bruce Charles
Sandi Banister

Former Founding Members:
Travetta Johnson
Pierce LaMacchia

Who’s Who


Jonathan clark

Jonathan Clark (Son), also known as “Courageous,” began performing professionally at the age of 13 as a member of The Carpetbag Theatre’s T.R.Y. Ensemble for Youth actors and has since become Managing Director and the eventual successor to his mentor, Executive/Artistic Director, Linda Parris-Bailey. From that day forward, he has remained a performing artist; touring, teaching workshops, and hosting events across the country and right here in his home town of Knoxville, TN. Jonathan was first introduced to Every Brilliant Thing as the Assistant Director for River & Rail’s first iteration in 2017 and could not be more excited to take on this role in an artistic effort to help counteract the rising number of lives lost to suicide right here in our own community. The deepest of gratitude goes out to each and every person in attendance for this production (that means you!) and to his Carpetbag Theatre Family for making it possible for this incredible collaboration to happen.

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1 if you’re a Veteran).


ellen nikbakht

Ellen Nikbakht (Daughter) is thrilled to be returning to River & Rail Co. after The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph's Baby in 2016 and 2017. Some past credits include Peter and the Starcatcher (Molly), Candide (Ensemble), Urinetown (Little Becky-Two Shoes), The Threepenny Opera (Betty) at the Clarence Brown Theatre and Walls: a Play for Palestine (Diaspora Child) at NYC Fringe Festival. Thank you to Josh and Amelia for inviting me back home, my family for their love and support, and my dog for the snuggles.


joshua peterson

Joshua Peterson (Son/River & Rail Founding Artistic Director) is a Texas transplant via Paris and New York but is now proud to claim Knoxville as his home. Prior to moving to Knoxville, Joshua served as the Artistic Director of Firebone Theatre Company in New York City. Joshua received his MFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He also holds a BA in Theatre from Oklahoma Baptist University. Between pursuing his degrees Joshua spent two years living and working for a humanitarian aide organization outside of Paris, France. He made his Knoxville acting debut in Clarence Brown Theatre's A Christmas Carol. Other Selected Regional Acting credits include Measure for Measure and Much Ado About Nothing (Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival), Barry Love in House and Garden (Theatre Three), Gail in Our Lady of 121st Street (Kitchen Dog Theatre) and Jon in Tape (Dallas Theatre Center.) Joshua would like to thank his wonderful wife and partner, Amelia. I love you more than ever, Pea.

Amelia Peterson (Director/River & Rail Literary Manager) is a Knoxville native and a graduate of Bearden High School. She earned her BFA in Theatre Studies from Southern Methodist University. Amelia directed the first production of The Unusual Tale of Mary & Joseph’s Baby this summer at the NYC International Fringe Festival. Prior to moving home to Knoxville, Amelia served as the Associate Artistic Director of Firebone Theatre (NYC) with her husband, Josh. While in New York, Amelia co-directed the world premier of Morbid Poetry at the Incubator Arts Project and a folktale adaptation series Long, Long Ago with Firebone Theatre Company. She has also directed new works for the CalArts Arts in the One World conference (Valencia, CA), the Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival (Washington, DC), and the Inkwell Theatre’s Showcase Reading Series (Washington, DC). She is “Mama” to Penny and Eli, a yoga teacher, and a doula. She is incredibly proud of Joshua for his bravery and perseverance.

Hannah Jones (Stage Manager/River & Rail Company Member) Hannah Jones is a locally based actor/director with a BA in Theatre from The University of Tennessee.  Her most recent credits include "Elizabeth” in The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph’s Baby, “Brutus" in Julius Caesar, "Quincy/Marge" in Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play, "Mommy" in Twolousandelever, and “Antigone" in Antigone. Her most recent directing credits under River & Rail Theatre Company include The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland, and The Little Prince at Sacred Heart Cathedral School. She is thankful to play a role in such a wonderful show (thanks to the entire production team!) and hopes you will enjoy it as much as she does.

Meghan Nelson (Assistant Director) is delighted to play a part in telling such an important story. Recent credits include Peter Pan (Assistant Choreographer, Tiger Lily) and Oklahoma! (Assistant Choreographer, Dream Laurey) both at Oak Ridge Playhouse. She would like to thank Josh and Amelia for this amazing opportunity and to the lovely cast and crew for all of their hard work.


Please visit our website at felding.co and look for us in the Old City this Fall.


Robin Easter Design
West High School
All Souls Church
Liz Stowers
David and Annie Colquitt
Katy Wolfe and David Brown
David and Travetta Johnson
Archie Ellis
Luke Lanzoni
Felding Co.
Bruce and Lynn Charles
Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network


All Souls Church - Ten to the City

University of Tennessee College of Social Work


We produce relevant stories for diverse audiences.

The goal of River & Rail Theatre is to not just create professional theatre accessible to all Knoxvillians, but to create theatre true to the stories of Knoxville, shared collectively by those on every side of every line.

As Knoxville continues to transform into a major player among American cities, we must realize, more than ever, the value of our diversity.

Theatre gives us the opportunity to laugh, grieve, and celebrate life with someone whose story we may have never considered. If only for a small time, we sit elbow to elbow with complete strangers and forget why we ever feared one another. In order to curate these experiences, we need to explore what keeps people away from the theatre and remove those obstacles as best we can.

That’s why, for each ticket purchased, River & Rail will donate a ticket to our community through a local non-profit organization.

River & Rail Theatre Company is an IRS Approved 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization

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River & Rail Theatre is a 501(c)3 Non-profit and we depend on the support of our patrons and sponsors. Please consider making a tax-deductable donation

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