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“Wit” opening May 5 at the Loft

Photo by Sarah Ruiz “Wit” tackles intense themes such as terminal illness and death.

By Steve Yang

Reverend Wendy Abrahamson will be debuting her first play as a director with her staging of “Wit,” at the Loft Theatre in the Grinnell Area Arts Council. Based on the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Margaret Edson of the same name, “Wit” will be performed on May 5-6 and 12-13 at 7:30 p.m. The show tells the tale of Dr. Vivian Bearing, an English professor dying of ovarian cancer who undergoes an experimental procedure in an attempt to save her life. In the process, Dr. Bearing takes a long look at life, the English language and the works of American author John Dunne. 

Although she has participated in numerous plays at the Loft as an actor, Abrahamson credits Professor Sandy Moffett, emeritus, and Tom Lacina for getting her foot in the door as a director. As part of her beginners’ directing class, Abrahamson chose to stage the first half of Wit, a one-act play that deals with tough questions like life, death and meaning.

“I’ve been familiar with the play for a while,” she said. “It’s just gripping … this really transcendent story that can be … complicated if you want it to be.”

Abrahamson says that after directing the first act, it made sense to expand to directing the whole play. The play itself is 90 minutes long, with no intermission and no specific set necessary, which poses its own creative challenges for actors and directors. Nonetheless, Abrahamson felt confident giving her actors more space to find their roles and make it their own.

“I just let the actors go, just trust them to know what to do,” Abrahamson explained. “I sit in the audience to help them fine-tune, but they know their way around. I just want to … give them everything they need to be artists.”

She also credits Lacina and Moffett for their mentorship, particularly with the gritty details like scheduling rehearsals.

“I’ve been in 7 different plays here with 6 different directors, and got to see a lot of what they do,” Abrahamson said. “Sandy and Tom helped me … with the nuts and bolts.”

She warned that due to the difficult topic that “Wit” deals with, it can be an extremely challenging play. Abrahamson added that although it can be challenging, she also finds it extremely meaningful, but acknowledges that it can be hard at times to watch.

“The play’s not a bummer, but it’s hard. I would say if you enjoy films that are kind of a challenge, this would be along those lines,” Abrahamson said. “But I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody whose family member is really really sick. This would probably be hard to watch.”

Abrahamson added that the intimate nature of the Loft Theater can also enhance the experience of watching the play, allowing audience members to forget their worries and think about larger issues in life than final exams.

“The Loft is … a beautiful little theater with … great opportunity for mixing, which is pretty cool,” Abrahamson said. “And the whole play is like a poem. There is a whole lot that’s not said. It’s pretty expressive, [it] doesn’t try to be realistic. It certainly would be a break from studying for finals.”

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