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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

With Wit, Carleton bids farewell to Arena Theater

<on’t want to spoil anything for you, but I think that I die at the end.” Protagonist Dr. Vivian Bearing (Chelsea Lau)’s deadpan line in the beginning of the show sums up the at-times seemingly contradictory spirit of the award-winning play W;t, written by Margaret Edison and directed by David Wiles.

W;t is the last production to be performed in Carleton’s Arena Theater.

W;t is, at least at the beginning, a lighthearted and, yes, witty play about death.  The story follows Dr. Bearing, an English professor, as she struggles with a form of ovarian cancer whose treatment is as painful and potentially deadly as the disease.  The show, put on by the Carleton Players, ran for four showings, Thursday through Sunday of sixth week and drew frequent laughter from its audience despite the seriousness of its subject matter. 

As Vivian Bearing struggles with her disease, she looks back on her life as a student and then as a teacher, specializing in the poetry of sixteenth-century writer John Donne, who often wrote about life, death, and the promise of salvation.  Bearing “revels in Donne’s works,” director David Wiles writes in the program, “but having reduced them to abstractions… has managed to avoid the material and spiritual questions they raise” until she has to deal with them on her deathbed.

In an interview with The Carletonian, David Wiles explained in more detail his own views on the play.  “We tend to think in abstractions in academia and risk losing sight of the concrete realities of daily living even as we study the stuff of daily living,” Wiles explained.  “Between faculty and students (including students who will go on to be doctors), this play speaks directly to what is or will be the lived experience of people on this campus.”

All in all, he was as happy as I was with the production itself, which went smoothly with a brilliant cast.  “I regard it as a blessing to work with students who are as intelligent, talented, motivated and serious as Carleton students are,” he said. “This cast took their work seriously whether they were playing leads or ensemble roles and the student designers and artistic staff were committed as well. The thing I worry about least when I direct at Carleton is finding talented actors, staff and crew. It always happens.” 

With the giving of the Weitz Center for Creativity next year, which will be the new home of Carleton’s Theater department and home of future Players’ Productions.

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