April 24-27 , 2008
Directed by Megan Gredesky
Scenic Designer Jason Witty
Lighting Designer Deborah Lindell
Costume Designer Amy Shell
Sound Designer Amanda Rozmiarek
Vivian Bearing (Christine Thompson) talks with her mentor,
E. M. Ashford (Lolly Foy, left).
Vivian making a point to her audience.
Vivian reminisces about learning from her father (David E. Jenkins).
The students use Vivian's case to learn from. They are (left to right): Jason (Cody Gerrells)
and orderlies (RaeAnne Carlson, Joe Crook, Tierney Bagan and Jacob Fair).
Vivian teaching class.
Jason attempts to revive Vivian while Susie (Meredith Larson)
reminds him of her 'do not rescuscitate' order.
When the code is called, the orderlies respond.
Photos by Mike Lagerquist
SOUND FILES: Director Megan Gredesky (above) talks about Wit:
How did you find out about the show and why did you choose to direct it?
Why do you think people should see it?
How important is casting the right person in the role of Vivian Bearing?
'Wit' has weight
Actress shaves her head for performance
By Amanda Dyslin
The Free Press
MANKATO — Right now her head is the only part of her telling the story.
Christine Marmor Thompson is a pretty girl. She has color in her cheeks. She’s speaking confidently about creating a character, imagining herself as Vivian Bearing, a renowned, emotionally challenged English professor who has been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer.
Thompson’s in blue jeans. She’s smiling. Her bright future is almost visible in her eyes.
The only hint of cancer is on her head in the form of a short shave, having buzzed off more than a foot of her hair for this role. In a few days it will be even shorter, a clean shave to appear raw, to show the bitter side effects of chemotherapy.
That sacrifice was important to Megan Gredesky, a first-year MFA directing candidate. Andreas Theatre — where “Wit” will open next Thursday — is intimate. A bald cap would be clearly seen by the audience and remove them from Vivian.
Emotional impact hinges on believability. It hinges on Thompson’s performance. The inner struggle behind her eyes. The fragile way she carries herself. The profundity and humor of her words, shadowed by such regret, as she reexamines her life.
That’s a big job for both Thompson and Gredesky to pull off. But the two have been working to bring Vivian alive and then near death on stage. The haircut was just one tool to bring Thompson closer to the character.
“(It didn’t effect me) as much as I thought it would. But I still have some hair,” she said. “The hardest part was hearing the scissors.”
Diving into the script has been the most helpful, she said. Gredesky wants Thompson to wait to see the HBO film version of “Wit.” Emma Thompson was acclaimed for her riveting performance of a woman who craves, but doesn’t know how to ask for human affection. The movie hasn’t been a resource for Gredesky, either, to insure the play will be their own.
Vivian provides so much inspiration, the movie isn’t needed. The play is set during the last hours of Vivian’s life. She recalls the diagnosis and her doctor’s proposal of an experimental chemotherapy treatment program, which has been brutal on her body.
She assesses her life in a scholarly way, using wit and the poetry of John Donne. She recites his “Holy Sonnet X” poem when discussing her condition.
Having taught English for five years, Gredesky had a special interest in the Donne aspect of the play. She selected the play partly because of his use of intellectualism in his poetry, similar to the way Vivian had approached her life.
Vivian had always been a difficult and demanding professor, showing little humanity to her students. She had never married. She had no children. Her parents are dead.
As she finds herself the recipient of the same cold treatment from her doctors as she had always shown to her students, she recognizes a parallel between her doctors’ interest in her for study and research purposes and the way she had ap-proached studying and teaching.
“She realizes she’s the specimen in the jar,” Gredesky said.
She realizes, through self-reflection, she would prefer compassion to intellect. A nurse, Susie Monahan, is the only person to offer it to her, providing a much-needed human touch to the end of her life.
“They have some really beautiful moments together,” Gredesky said.
Thompson realizes the weight of the role. The physicality is a challenge for her, she said.
But she’s ready. Gredesky selected her because she’s an intellectual, she said.
She understands Vivian well.
Individual tickets for "Wit" are $9.00 regular, $8.00 for senior citizens, youth 16 and under and groups of 15 or more, $7.00 for current
Minnesota State students. Call the Theatre & Dance Box Office at 507-389-6661 between 4 & 6 p.m., Monday-Friday,
or submit a ticket request.