On one side of the drapes, the audience stares at the captivating hanging cloth of concealment, sitting on the edge of their seat because they know their attention is about to be captured by a one of a kind performance. On the other side, a company of people prepare themselves to each become an entirely different individual of whom they have mastered perfectly through weeks and weeks of hard work.
Coming soon to Timber Creek by the Timber Creek theater department is Wit, a Pulitzer Prize winning drama about the inspiring yet difficult journey of a dying cancer patient.
“I’m a sucker for good literature, I’m a literature snob and this is incredibly well written,” Director Lance Morse said on why he picked this particular piece as the one act play for the UIL competitions. “I hope that every member of the company really grows as an actor and finds a personal connection with some of the characters so that when we present this to an audience it’s a very realistic experience, for everyone.”
Wit centers around a middle-aged English Professor named Vivian who has been diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer. Over the course of the play, she struggles with her cancer and the treatments and, through it all, her efforts to discover her true self. Head Nurse Susie Monahan R.N.,B.S.N, played by sophomore Hailey Anders, is one of the few who can comfort Vivian.
“I wanted to be apart of a company that was full of people passionate about a show; a show that brings awareness to cancer, and brings to life the beautiful writings of Donne,” Anders said, referring to the poet that Vivian oftens quotes. “Once I read [the script], I knew I wanted to audition for Susie, so getting the role was a huge honor.”
Much is going into the show in order to be sure the story is being told the best way it can be.
“A lot of work has already been put in, we did classes with Mrs. Burkamp on metaphysical therapy because it’s important to the show, and then worked on viewpoints after that to strengthen the company connection,” junior Maddie Ott commented.
Another activity that the theater company felt would be greatly beneficial was to talk to the writer of Wit. Set up through Morse, they had the rare opportunity to skype with Margaret Edson, the playwright. A middle school teacher in Georgia, Edson put away some time to talk face to face electronically with the cast and crew of Wit.
“One of the questions that was asked was, ‘Why did you write this story as a play, what stopped you from writing it as a novel,’” sophomore Nathan Hicks said. “Ms. Edson then told us that she chose to write a play as opposed to a book because whenever someone is reading a book they’re having that experience alone as they read the words to themselves and move their eyes back and forth with the occasional break of reading here and there.”
Edson is known for her love of human connection as can be seen by her preferral to skype rather than answer questions over email. This love is also seen throughout Wit, as tough cookie Vivian slowly learns the benefits of kindness rather just hard facts in her process of fighting the cancer and discovering her true self.
“I loved that aside from the script itself, the playwright, she looked at the company at all the students and she said that I need you to know that you are you, yourself is what the world needs,” Morse said.
Learning more about the underlying themes and character development from Edson herself greatly benefited the company as Anders explains that they all felt a “stronger connection to the show and [their] individual characters” afterwards.
“It was really amazing to hear the story of how the play went into being published because she faced a lot of rejection before getting it published and a lot more before getting it produced as a play,” Ott said. “I think her insights are going to be especially helpful in the way everyone portrays their characters.”
Wit is a complex show that portrays many conflicted feelings and versions of controversial issues. Death is just one of these things.
“There is a big debate in the show about death and whether death should be represented with a comma or a semicolon. Meaning … is death a pause between two related states of being or is it a semicolon whereas we’re leaving one complete unit and moving on to another. Is it a pause or a doorway that shuts?” Morse said reverently.
The theater department is a group of people aspiring to tell the story of a Pulitzer prize winning play about a cancer patient. They are working hard to perfect every last possible detail and will continue to do so until the day finally comes for the curtains to open and for people to come and enjoy the live action show.
“No matter what happens,” said Anders “I will love this show and give it my all every performance.”