“Everything I have done, I have been steadfast, resolute, some would say in the extreme. Now, as you can see, I am distinguishing myself in my illness.”

— DR. VIVIAN BEARING,
“WIT” BY MARGARET EDSON

The first and only play of a kindergarten
teacher in Atlanta won a 1999 Pulitzer and is on the spring schedule to be directed by neighborhood newcomer Elizabeth Stevens at the Dallas Theater Center.

When a professor of 17th century poetry has the order of her universe demolished by ovarian cancer, she combats her illness with irony, humor and — wit.

“Itʼs rigorous, kind of unsentimental, but a moving look at what it means to live with compassion and die with dignity,” says Stevens, who promises that despite the somber subject matter, theatergoers usually laugh through about “three-fourths of the play.”

During its well-received New York run, Edson’s fast-paced drama was described as “a dazzling and humane new play that you will remember ’til your dying day.”

The drama, Stephens says, puts forth “how to deal with one’s own mortality and also how to be supportive and loving to people who are undergoing that as well.” The DTC production is sponsored in part by Gilda’s Club here in our neighborhood; the organization champions
similar principles in dealing with cancer.

“I fell in love with the play,” Stephens says, “and feel so lucky to be given the chance
to direct it. I have never directed in Dallas before; this is my debut here. I’m thrilled to
have it be a work of such merit.”

Stevens, a graduate of the Yale School of
Drama, comes here after directing Dick in
London with the Obie award-winning Target
Margin Theater. This will be her first season with DTC as an artistic associate; she also
will teach directing at SMU. The new arrival has already developed a fondness for her
Texas home: “There’s so much sky here! And I’m really learning to enjoy steak and margaritas.”

On her role in the production, Stevens says: “It takes a great deal of compassion and responsibility to be a good director. You’re dealing with actors who are taking huge risks, being very brave and generous with you. They don’t always get acknowledged as much as
they ought.”

And naturally, she’s a fan of Wit.

“I think the play is deeply healing,” she says. “I can’t think of anyone who’s seen it whose life hasn’t been touched by it. I think the way we treat death in society … actually we don’t treat it — we’re afraid of it. I think it’s important to
explore our feelings about it, to talk about it. This play faces it with bravery and humor.

“I think it’s going to be a real experience for the community.”


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