By Margaret Edson

Directed by Leslie Swakhamer

Audience Guide

Vivian Bearing, Ph.D., is a tough, brilliant, and witty English professor at an unnamed university. A powerful personality accustomed to controlling every situation during her acclaimed academic career, she finds herself blindsided by a diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer. She is given eight months of intensive chemotherapy, a slim chance of recovery, and an excellent opportunity to provide medical researchers with an experimental subject. Surrounded by the foreign sterility of a research hospital and bombarded with a treatment at least as aggressive as the cancer itself, Vivian resolves that even if she cannot outsmart the disease, she will labor valiantly to outwit it.

As doctors and interns track her progress, all the research hospital seems to be concerned about are her charts and the effects the chemotherapy has on her deteriorating body. It is up to Vivian to attend to own mental well-being. Verbally sparring with the doctors and tentatively reaching out to an empathetic nurse, Vivian's true trial is her failure to connect with others. She finally finds solace in the arms of a demanding mentor, E.M. Ashford, who meant much more to her than she was ever able to express.

Produced by The Rep

Presented at the Madison Civic Center in the Isthmus Playhouse.

September 1-24, 2000

September 1

8:00 pm

September 2

5/8:30 pm

September 3

1:30 pm*

September 6

7:30 pm

September 7

7:30 pm

September 8

8:00 pm

September 9

5/8:30 pm

September 10

5:00 pm

September 13

7:30 pm*

September 14

7:30 pm

September 15

8:00 pm

September 16

5/8:30 pm

September 17

1:30/5 pm

September 20

7:30 pm

September 21

7:30 pm

September 22

8:00 pm

September 23

5/8:30 pm

September 24

5:00 pm

*audience discussion

Single ticket prices are $22 for Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday performances and $27 for Friday and Saturday performances. For more information, or for reservations, contact the Civic Center ticket office (608) 266-9055, 211 State Street, Madison. For information on group discounts, call Madison Rep at 256-0029 x13.


The Play

Madison Repertory Theatre will present the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama WIT by Margaret Edson September 1 &endash; 24 at the Isthmus Playhouse in the Madison Civic Center. The play is a study of grace and courage about a professor of English literature who is forced to become the student of her own mortality.

WIT is the first play by Margaret Edson, an elementary school teacher in Atlanta. She wrote it after her experience as a clerk at an oncology/AIDS unit of a research hospital. Edson said she wanted to explore a situation where someone of power and independence becomes dependent upon others. She created Vivian Bearing, a scholar of John Donne's 17th century metaphysical poetry. "I wanted her to be someone who was skilled in the use of words and skilled in the acquisition of knowledge, but very inept and very clumsy in her relations with people on a more simple level," Edson said in an interview on the PBS NewsHour program.

The Director

Leslie Swakhamer will direct the play. A Seattle-based director, Swackhamer directed the Rep's hit production of What Corbin Knew last January. Artistic director D. Scott Glasser said, "We are so lucky to have Leslie back in Madison to direct Wit. Her intelligence, sensitivity, imagination, and skills will bring this provocative play alive. We have worked together to assemble a phenomenal cast which includes actors from both the Madison community and across the country."

Cast and Crew

Lori Larsen will take on the role of Vivian Bearing. Larsen is a Seattle-based actress whose credits include work with Seattle Repertory Theatre and the Empty Space. Other cast members include Ruth Schudson (Virginia in Three Viewings) as Dr. Ashford; Paul Boesing (Watson in Sherlock's Last Case, James in Long Day's Journey Into Night) as Dr. Kelekian; and David Quicksall as Dr. Posner making his Madison Rep debut. The cast also includes Madison actors Stephen Montagna (Beast on the Moon, Six Degrees of Separation), Jacob Mullis (Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde), Jamie F. England, and June Miyasaki in multiple roles.

The design team for Wit includes Frank Schneeberger, scenery; Maureen McGuire, costumes, John Frautschy, lights and Jack Sayre, sound. The production stage manager is Meghan Gauger.

The Playwright

Margaret Edson was born in Washington, DC in 1961. Between earning degrees in history and literature, she worked on the cancer inpatient unit of a research hospital. Wit, written in 1991, is her first play. The 1995 South Coast Repertory production of the play won six Los Angeles D Drama Critics awards, including Best World Premiere. The 1997 Long Wharf Theatre production won three Connecticut Drama Critics Awards, including Best Play. The New York production won the New York Drama Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards. In addition, Ms. Edson received the John Gossner Playwrighting Award and the Newsday Oppenheimer Award. Wit won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Ms. Edson lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and teaches kindergarten in the Atlanta Public Schools.