Friday, June 03, 2016

wit | artistic director's notes

Here are Ron Reed's AD Notes on WIT!

Twenty years ago I asked a Los Angeles theatre friend if he’d come across anything that might be right for Pacific Theatre. Wit had recently premiered at South Coast Rep, and when he told me of the John Donne connection, I was thrilled. But then he had second thoughts: maybe it wasn’t so strong a link to PT after all. So I didn’t follow through and track down the manuscript. Drat.

Not sure where those second thoughts came from. Four years later the play won the Pulitzer Prize, another friend thought it would be perfect for us, and I got a copy. Perfect indeed – and a perfect role for Katharine Venour. So we went after the rights. But, too late. It turned out The Vancouver Playhouse was also interested, and we had to bide our time.

In 2005 Katharine and I did Shadowlands together, the story of C.S. Lewis and his wife Joy Davidman, and her death by cancer. Dan Amos played a young doctor in that show. Dan moved to Los Angeles several years ago, but we’ve been talking about having him up to do another show. When I realized the time had come to stage Wit, it was irresistable to have him play another young doctor, though in a far more substantial role – not realizing this part has been on Dan’s wish list for years. I’ve also been looking for a way to work with Angela Konrad again, and when she mentioned out of the blue that she’d become fascinated with this play, it all converged, and... Here we are.

Through rehearsal, my regard for this script has only deepened, seeing the resonances between characters, the echoes from one scene to another, the “wit” and precise language of medicine and literature and theology juxtaposed with with simpler, harder human and eternal truths. Achievement and mortality, power and weakness. This play gives us a taste of John Donne’s extraordinary intellect, but even more, it gives us the opportunity to experience something of the deep faith that informed his life and carried him through suffering and death.

All that said, I love the play’s lightness and energy. I love the intellectual rigour – its “wit” in the John Donne sense – but I also love how witty it is. How funny it turns out to be.

So I can’t wait to share this extraordinary experience with you, our audience. Hoping that we can bring you something of the depth and intricacy and dread and humanity and hope to be found in John Donne, and in Margaret Edson’s wise and witty play.

Ron Reed, Artistic Director

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