York College production “W;t” explores life, death, art, and cancer
YC Spring Theatre Production Opens Thursday
“Raise your hand if you don’t have a single person in your life that has been touched by cancer,” John Baker, associate professor of communication instructed his students in a recent class.
No hands went up.
That response is why Baker’s spring drama production at York College is so important, he says. The Pulitzer Prize winning play W;t examines one woman’s experience with cancer.
The drama opens this weekend, running Thursday through Sunday.
Through the main character’s battle with the illness, the audience comes to a deeper understanding of what cancer patients endure. They also travel with the character as she discovers more about humanity, compassion, and the meaning of life at the end of hers, Baker says.
“Cancer is real. Many of our students have experienced it themselves or in a family member, or will someday,” says Baker. He describes the show as brilliant, entertaining and funny, but also very real and sometimes awkward.
Like all drama, this show is instructive, says Baker. You don’t have to live through these experiences firsthand to learn something from the character’s struggles. The message of the show is the importance of compassion, understanding, and human connection, he says.
York College sophomore Brianna Bailey plays the lead role of Vivian Bearing. “The character is an English professor and she’s always had her life in order. She’s always been in control,” Bailey says. “[This show} definitely teaches you about humanity and mortality…With mortality, you can’t make excuses or try to run away. That’s what Vivian has to learn.”
Due to the intensity of the subject matter, the play may not be suitable for children. However, Baker and Bailey both stress that the show isn’t depressing, but rather inspiring and often funny.
Though Vivian’s cancer is terminal, by the end of the show you can see there is hope for her redemption, says Baker. Audience members will experience both catharsis and enlightenment through the show.
Other cast members include Nolan Henningson, Jameson Trauger, Jasmine Agee, Morgan Goracke, Daniel Magner, Bethany Miller, Briana Van Deusen, Beth Brock, and Lauren Post. Caleb Clark is the assistant director.
Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students. Cast members are selling teal rubber bracelets for ovarian cancer awareness for $1, with proceeds going to fund cancer research.
More about the show
Vivian Bearing, a demanding and uncompromising professor of 17th century English poetry specializing in the sonnets of John Donne, is diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. Being an academic, she treats the news with a certain matter-of-factness much like she would her own research. Indeed, her medical team - the renowned Dr. Harvey Kelekian and his fellow, Dr. Jason Posner, who happens to be an ex-student of hers - do treat her solely like a research experiment, with a "live at all cost" mentality. The doctors recommend an experimental treatment of aggressive chemotherapy, to which she agrees. In part out of her own choice but in part out of her own personal circumstances, she decides to go through the treatment alone. But as her treatment progresses, she wishes she had some more truly caring human interaction from people who see her as a person and not just a research experiment.