Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wit. Chapter One.

"Hi, how are you feeling today?"

This is the first line of the piece I'm currently directing for the Newtowne Players.  I used it as the opener for this blog post at the request of my leading actress, Dawna Diaz.  I hope she doesn't mind my mentioning her here.  I am almost certain I will be saying only good things with regard to her personally - and professionally, I might add.

It was not my intention to direct this piece.

I submitted it for a friend, who now happens to be my stage manager, but when he couldn't direct it, he asked me to step in, having seen my work before.  I said yes instantly, because I wanted to see the piece done on the Newtowne stage - for the Newtowne audience.  I felt like they were ready for it and that they needed this nudge off of the artistic cliff so to speak - nurtured toward more after last year's Butterfly experience.

That and the piece is brilliant.  Not only is it a Pulitzer winner but it's also stunning, intelligent, pushes the envelope...  I guess what I'm trying to say is, while some plays that win the Pulitzer could be said to be lacking something...this play simply isn't lacking anything.  It is edgy.  It is humorous and terribly sad - sometimes together.  And the main character is a woman.

This has happened for good old Pulitzer a few times, and I have been privy to it before: Proof, by David Auburn, is another example of such a piece.  I had the privilege to direct the show on the high school stage and then, that same season, to play the role of Catherine

But I digress.  Wit is the piece at hand.

It is the story of a woman who is diagnosed with advanced metastatic ovarian cancer  - stage four.  "There is no stage five."  She checks herself into a research hospital, and she tells us, the audience - her students for just under two hours - exactly what happens to her along the way.

I see the piece as a Last Lecture of sorts.

What I find most intriguing is that Vivian, the main character - who speaks openly to the audience - shattering the fourth wall with her very first statement - while suffering from a female cancer, could be any of us.  I find this breathtaking.

There is no man to whom she clings for her salvation.  She is not having sexual relations "at the moment".  She is utterly alone in the world and she is successful in that way - and it is another woman who teaches her the art of kindness - the art of compassion - and really - how could it be any other way.

I applaud everything about this piece.

I admit that I am terrified of it still - even though we are just a few short weeks from opening night.

The night after I agreed to direct it I went home and had a complete panic attack.  I will be directing Wit.  What have I done?  This piece is too good for me.  It is too big.  It is too rich.  It is about things I don't understand - medical terms... I am...I will over my head.

Wit is my twentieth directing gig.  I still feel like a novice in the face of it.  In my desperation to do it justice I am certain that I have taken on much more stress than necessary.  It is, after all, only art.

Of course I don't mean that.  It is only art.  But art to something like breathing.  It's where I find God.  In art.  In His art.  Creation.  The gifts he has bestowed on others.

It is why I strive for excellence in this area of my life more than any other.  Because for me, it is a practice of holiness.

Some might find this blasphemous - but I think that other artists - other actors, dancers, painters, directors, musicians... I think that they will understand what I mean when I say that there is no where else I am closer to God than when I am surrounded by brilliance in an art museum - surrounded by our attempts to be like our Master.  Our futile attempts - but there is beauty in that.  Sheer, utter, complex beauty.  I am choking up thinking about it.

I know I am unnaturally sentimental.

Regardless - I am blessed with a most excellent cast, and things are going so well I'm afraid for the other foot to fall.  I pray that there is no other foot, and I am in fact dueling with a one-legged man.


Pete said...

Awesome! I remember seeing Wit in Harrisburg way back when. It's a really good play, with really really strong characters. I believe in you, Miss!

Missy said...

Thanks, Petah!

Michael did the lights for Open Stage Harrisburg's performance.

Anonymous said...

Missy, I can't wait to see it! I too think it is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature I have ever read. I enjoyed reading the reasons it is meaningful to you.
See you soon!
Kathy Mead

Missy said...

Thanks, Kathy - looking forward to seeing you there!

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