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In her extraordinary first play, Margaret Edson has created a work that is as intellectually challenging as it is emotionally immediate. Vivian Bearing, Ph.D., a renowned professor of English who has spent years studying and teaching the brilliant and difficult metaphysical sonnets of John Donne, has been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. Her approach to the study of Donne: aggressively probing, intensely rational. But during the course of her illness- and her stint as a prize patient in an experimental chemotherapy program at a major teaching hospital – Vivian comes to reassess her life and her work with a profundity and humor that are transformative both for her and the audience.

The Goshen College Theater Department will explore life, death and poetry in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit” by Margaret Edson. The 2013 fall mainstage production, directed and produced by Tamera Izlar, assistant professor of theater, will be presented on Nov. 8, 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 10 and 17 at 3 p.m. (ASL interpreted) in Goshen College’s Umble Center.

In her extraordinary first play, Margaret Edson has created a work that is as intellectually challenging as it is emotionally immediate. The central character, Dr. Vivian Bearing, is a renowned professor of English who has spent years studying and teaching the brilliant and difficult metaphysical sonnets of John Donne.

In the play, the onset of metastatic ovarian cancer suddenly shatters Bearing’s impersonal world and thrusts her into new relationships. Over the course of the play, Bearing re-experiences life as a new patient in a world-renowned oncology center. As she works to piece her life together in the wake of death, Bearing is confronted by fragmented memories. Using the audience as a window into her soul, Bearing deliberately works to retrieve the fragmented pieces of her life.

While reflecting on her life through the intricacies of the English language, especially the use of wit in the metaphysical poetry of John Donne, Bearing comes to reassess her life and her work with a profundity and humor that are transformative both for her and the audience.

“Tackling a play as universal as ‘Wit’ is a delicate experience,” Izlar said. “‘Wit’ is a story of grave familiarity. Illnesses do not honor factors such as economics, religion and education. We are not immune; all people must cope with life, sickness and death. Directly or indirectly, we all have or will be impacted by terminal illnesses.”

Lauren Treiber, a senior from Grand Rapids, Mich., will play the part of Dr. Vivian Bearing. The cast for “Wit” also includes the following students: Jesse Bontreger (Goshen, Ind.), Martin Flowers (Nappanee, Ind.), Christina Hofer (Dolton, S.D.), Sarah Lake-Rayburn (Champaign, Ill.), Ally Medellin (Goshen, Ind.), Nick Peebles (Chicago, Ill.), Angel E. Reyes Jr. (Leesburg, Ind.), Adrienne Schmucker (Wauseon, Ohio) and Paul A. Zehr (Carthage, N.Y.).

The production team includes faculty/staff: Tamera Izlar, director and producer, and Andrew Moeggenborg, technical director and set designer. The production team also includes the following students: stage manager and assistant technical director, Angie Troyer (Elkhart, Ind.); sound designer and projectionist, Benjie Aguieleria Brown (Asuncion, Paraguay); costume designer and master carpenter, Brett Conrad (Lakewood, Colo.); light designer, Aaron Kauffmann(Goshen, Ind.); props designer, Melanie Hertzler (Goshen, Ind.); hair and make-up designer, Hannah Sauder (Lititz, Pa.); master electrician/assistant lighting designer, Gwen Stephan (Goshen, Ind.); costume shop manager, Sarah Lake-Rayburn (Champaign, Ill.); light board operator, Riley Woods (N. Manchester, Ind.); sound board operator, Robert Lerch (Spring Valley, N.Y.); spotlight operator, Lea Ramer (Ft. Collins, Colo.); ASL interpreters, Keyonna McCane (Rochester, Ind.), Renae Weaver (Denver, Pa.) and Rosa Wyse (Grandview Heights, Ohio); poster design, Jama Yoder (Goshen, Ind.)

“Wit” won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play also received the “Best New Play” award in 1999 from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle.

“‘Wit’ embraces the call to ‘compassionate peacemaking,’ officially declared by President Brenneman in early September,” Izlar said. “I hope audience members will be able to tap into the simplicity and complexity of language, emotions and humanity Margaret Edson presented.”

Tickets for the show cost $10 general admission, $5 for students/seniors/GC employees, and are available through the Welcome Center by calling (574) 535-7566, emailing welcomecenter@goshen.edu, online at goshen.edu/tickets or at the Umble Center box office an hour before the show.