WIT to be performed March 13 – 31. Produced by Penobscot Theatre Company.
A beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning play is headed to Penobscot Theatre Company’s stage: Tickets are now on sale for Margaret Edson’s WIT, starring New York actress, Sarah Dacey-Charles. Penobscot Theatre’s production of this unforgettable drama will take place in the historic Bangor Opera House from March 13 – March 31st.
WIT centers on a brilliant and exacting poetry professor named Vivian Bearing, who is undergoing experimental treatment for cancer. A scholar who devoted her life to academia, she must now face the irony and injustice of becoming the subject of research, herself.
WIT was the first play written by Margaret Edson, inspired by her experience working in a hospital oncology unit. Artistic Director, Bari Newport says of her decision to produce this play in her opening season, “The Bangor community’s unique confluence of science and academia led me to wonder what the theatre could do to facilitate a conversation between the two. WIT does so naturally and in the most beautiful and elegant manner. It is a tale filled with generous profundity and humor, with an ending that will stay in your mind, forever.”
WIT won the 1999 Pulitzer for Drama and was nominated for a Tony for “Best Revival” when Sex in the City’s Cynthia Nixon starred in it on Broadway last season. In the PTC production, the lead role of Vivian will be portrayed by Sarah Dacey Charles. Sarah, who has been described as both “thrilling” and “radiant”, makes her Penobscot Theatre debut. Coming up, Sarah will be appearing on the new TV series: The Following: episode 9, where she plays an FBI agent in a scene with Kevin Bacon! Sarah won the 2011 LIFF Best Actor Award for her portrayal of Barbara Stanwyck in the Indy film, Agnes Moorehead is God! Sarah’s theatre credits include covering Madam Thenardier in the Broadway company of Les Miserables and performing in the National Tours of 9 to 5, and Sunset Boulevard. Sarah’s regional theatre highlights include playing Fosca in Passion (TheatreWorks), Yvonne in Sunday In the Park With George (Arden Theatre Co.), Rona in Spelling Bee (Mason Street Warehouse), Eunice in A Street Car Named Desire (New Harmony Theatre), and Sister Walburga in The Divine Sister (Stageworks Hudson).
We asked Sarah to answer a few questions for us and she graciously accepted. Here’s the transcript of our interview with her!
Sarah Dacey Charles to star as Vivian Bearing in PTC’s production of WIT.
What inspired you to become a performer?
The answer to this question is not what but who, specifically my grandfather and my father. Being a performer was literally in my genes. My grandfather, Clem Dacey, was a vaudeville performer, popular singer and had his own radio show called “Clem and Harry” . My Dad inherited a brilliant operatic singing voice and he taught me how to sing and act. However, my Dad chose not to be a professional actor but pursued a career in nuclear physics instead. I always felt my Dad’s unconditional support of my acting was his way of vicariously experiencing a road not taken . Nonetheless, I feel blessed to have had his encouragement.
How is the preparation for your role in Wit unique from other roles you have played?
First of all– massive memorization preparation. Vivian Bearing is a huge role. She has something like 20 monologues and basically talks nonstop for 100 minutes. The role is also very challenging intellectually and emotionally. I knew that if I wanted to succeed in bringing her to life, I couldn’t afford to be lazy so I started the memorization process last October, as soon as I was cast. I read about John Donne , ovarian cancer and metaphysical poetry. I also wrote a character life story to fill in the autobiographical details about the character that aren’t spelled out in the play. BUT part of being an artist is knowing what NOT to do. As I studied the script, I consciously resisted locking in to specific choices in how to play the role. As a young actor, I would analyze a script, break it down into beats and write out the character’s actions and motivations for every line. I did not do that in my preparation to play Vivian, not out of laziness, but out of trust. I trust myself as an actor to be more truthful if I don’t “act” the character but rather let the character act through me . I trust my smart director, Kappy Kilburn, to deftly guide me and the rest of this wonderful cast that Bari has assembled, to tell a truthful and compelling story. But most of all, I trust this play . Margret Edson’s , “Wit” is so masterful. It literally sings off the page.
What was interesting to you about temporarily relocating to Bangor, Maine?
Artistic freedom! There is something so freeing about getting away from the bright lights of the big city and coming to an adorable small town to do what you love to do. Who would have thought that snowy Bangor would be such an incubator for creativity but it is!
Why do you think theater is an important medium/art form?
Community and transformation. Theatre at its best, and especially in the regions, can really partner with the community and deepen its heart. Also, Theatre at its best, transforms those hearts and minds. I know it transforms me as an artist. For example, working on a play like Wit, is changing me as a human being by forcing me to grapple with the deeper issues of my own mortality.
There have been those moments as an audience member too when I have seen a play or musical and I was profoundly moved or inspired in a more personal, and visceral way than if I had been watching a film. I love films and TV and in no way mean to put them down. But in a digital world, in which we increasingly experience life in front of a screen, whether its a television set, personal computer or a cell phone, and when communication is more often typed than spoken, the actual experience of live performance and direct communication is especially precious.
Wit will be performed March 13 – 31 at the Bangor Opera House. Please contact our box office at 942-3333 or visit penobscottheatre.org to purchase tickets.
Major production support for WIT is provided by the Maine Arts Commission and made possible in part through the generous sponsorship of Groth & Associates, Health Search New England and EMHS. Additional project funding awarded by the City of Bangor’s Commission for Cultural Development. Ongoing hospitality and media sponsors are The Charles Inn, Bangor Daily News, The Maine Edge, Canyon Networks, Blueberry Broadcasting, ZONE Radio and WLBZ Channel 2.