This year’s fall play is Wit: a story of a scholar diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.
The play won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 and was written by Margaret Edson, the first and only play she wrote.
“It’s pretty amazing to think that someone with no background in theatre wrote this amazing work of art,” school play director and Communications professor Jerry Cohagen said. “It’s a beautiful, compelling story of something we’ll all face, and that is death.”
Cohagen has been working with Olivet for 14 years and has directed between 30 and 40 plays, but he was saving this one in particular until the time was right.
“I read the play back in 1999… [and] I’ve always wanted to do it since 1999,” Cohagen said. “I was waiting for the right talent to come along.” That “right talent” that Cohagen speaks of is senior Ashley Sarver.
Playing the lead role, Sarver prepared herself for a difficult role that would challenge her as an actress, but she shaved her head for the part of the woman with cancer.
“I did this not only for characterization, but out of respect for those who have struggled and are struggling with this very disease.” Sarver said in an interview for Access ONU. “I shaved my head for them and for the power of theatre.”
This will be Sarver’s last undergraduate play and, just as it’s impacted her life, she hopes that it will have an impact on others.
Cohagen says the 22 cast members have been working hard on this play and he hopes people won’t decide not to come because of the serious subject matter. He expects the audience to be moved and surprised that humor can still be found in this story. He said it will also make people reflect on their own lives.
“It’s a fearful journey knowing that we’re all going to die, but this play shows that, although there is fear of the unknown, it’s the journey to the next step,” Cohagen said. “Hopefully people will be enlightened by it.”
“[‘Wit’] asks the question when we come to the end of our journey, what matters? Not our intelligence, not our wit, not our ability to reason, but what we can feel with our heart,” Cohagen said. The play also makes the point that “life is just a comma,” he said.
“Buy lots of Kleenexes, bring a medical dictionary, and try to remember the fact that this is a very real thing that people are still struggling with.” Cast member Dan Flynn said according to Access ONU.
The showings of “Wit” will be on Friday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 24 at 3 p.m. You can purchase tickets by calling: 815-928-5791 or visiting https://securepay.olivet. edu/homecoming/.
The following weekend, showings are Friday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 31 at both 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For these dates you can purchase tickets by calling a different number: 815-928-5543 or visiting a separate website, www.olivet.edu/tickets.
The showings will take place in Kresge Auditorium.
—Lauren Stancle, assistant Life and Culture editor