The audience will embark on an emotional rollercoaster as All Saints’ puts on a production of Wit, a play by Margaret Edson, on October 28 and 29. The play is about an intelligent poetry teacher, Vivian Bearing, who is battling ovarian cancer.
“Wit is one of my favorite plays,” said Mr. James Venhaus, All Saints’ theatre teacher. “It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999, and is considered to be one of the best plays of the second half of the 20th century. I always try to pick shows that will challenge my students and my audience intellectually and, I try to pick plays with literary merit so that we can expand our cultural literacy.”
Vivian Bearing is played by Grace Evans ’17 during All Saints’ upcoming production.
“We could not be more different,” explains Evans. “We are in different places in our lives. Her manner of speaking is difficult because she is brilliant and everything she says is for a reason. When I was cast, my family and friends were concerned that I would take too much of her burden out of the play. Emotionally, I had to find that balance of getting into the character and also having a healthy distance,” says Evans regarding her tasks of being cast as the main character.
Evans also had to do a great amount of research in order to prepare for and conquer the role of such a brilliant and very ill woman. Caleb Albritton ’17 and Brendan O’Toole ’17 play the lead doctors who are trying to come up with a cure for her disease.
The cast took a trip to the Texas Oncology lab here in Fort Worth to dig deeper into the harsh realities of ovarian cancer. Mr. Venhaus thought that if the students were exposed to a real oncology lab, they would be able to more fully develop their characters.
“In the play, the doctors are so much more focused on research and the big picture that they let the patient slip through the cracks,” said Ford, a cast member who plays a technician, a fellow student, and member of the code team. “It’s not because they don’t care, because they do; they just are more distracted.” Going to Texas Oncology was a relief to Ford and the others to realize that doctors are not like our characters in the play.
Tayler Weathers plays EM Ashford, Bearing’s old English professor and mentor. “My character was not specifically found at the oncology lab,” said Weathers. “So, instead, I realized the drastic difference between having a support system versus not having one. I saw just what it was that Vivian, the main character, needed: kindness, love, and a break from the exhaustion that is cancer treatment. Then I could really make sure she had that in the few scenes I was in.”
“The trip really helped Britney Zak ’17, who plays Bearing’s nurse, understand her role,” Ford said, “because she is the most kind and warm person in the play. For everyone else it just opened our eyes to how supportive and attentive the doctors and nurses are today.”
I think the audience will become emotionally attached as Evans portrays Vivian battling against ovarian cancer. I was drawn in by the reality of the hospital scenes. Evans puts on the face of a very sick woman and she does so in such a way that one might actually believe she is fighting cancer on stage.
“Because we are presenting a play about a real-life medical issue, we all felt a responsibility to ‘get it right’ and be respectful to those who are dealing with ovarian cancer.” explains Venhaus about the challenge of the play.
The costumes are simple yet effective. They set the scene of a hospital room 10 years ago.The set looks exactly as one would picture a hospital room. Evans is bald the entire time, which really shows the severity of her condition.
“The story is beautifully moving and ultimately very inspiring. A perfect fit for the All Saints’ drama department,” said Venhaus. Wit will be playing in McNair theater at All Saints’ on October 28 and 29 at 7:00 P.M. There is a $10 admission fee, and a $5 fee for students. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to ovarian cancer research.