Character List for Wit Vivian Bearing, Ph.D. - a 50-year-old scholar whose area of specialty is English poet John Donne's Holy Sonnets; she first became enamored of his work while studying "Death Be Not Proud," which poem she has returned to. For most of her recent career she has been teaching graduate students, including the young man whose case she becomes. At the opening of the play she has just learned that she has ovarian cancer. Harvey Kelekian, M.D. - also 50, he is chief of oncology at the local teaching hospital and Vivian's personal physician for her cancer treatment. He asks if he may include her in the rounds he conducts for his students because of the aggressive treatment she will undergo and she accepts, understanding the intensive coursework required of graduate students. Jason Posner, M.D. - at 28 he is a clinical fellow within Kelekian's oncology department, completing a final year of doctoring although he actually wants to go into research. Early in his graduate studies he took a poetry class with Dr. Bearing. Susie Monahan, R.N., B. S.N. - a primary nurse in the Cancer Inpatient Unit, Susie is 28 but has already seen quite a bit of oncological treatment and has a wonderful bedside manner. E.M. Ashford, D.Phil. - one of Vivian's most influential professors, she visits her former student in the hospital on her way to see her grandson. Dr. Ashford is 80. Mr. Bearing - Vivian's supportive but hands-off father, who leads her to her first understandings of the power of words. The Design Team Scenic design
Matthew E. Maraffi
Setting Primarily Dr. Bearing's room at the University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center but we also visit her office and classroom, Dr. Kelekian's office, and Vivian's childhood home. Synopsis: Vivian Bearing's discovery that she is in stage 4 of ovarian cancer transforms her from a grad student instructor to the object of medical grad student study, provoking memories of not only of teaching but of her own educational discoveries about the power of words and John Donne's word mastery as demonstrated in his Holy Sonnets, particularly, "Death Be Not Proud." In re-examining her life past and "present' Vivian learns a lot about living. Meet Margaret Edson Margaret Edson, a native of Washington, DC, now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she is a kindergarten teacher. Prior to this she taught first grade in a public school and English as a second language for five years at her church. During the time she wrote Wit she held a variety of jobs, including one in a bicycle shop, although the concept of the play's action—a person of some power in an esoteric arena coming to terms with an excruciating physical condition— occurred to Edson while she worked on degrees in history and literature and worked in the cancer and AIDS unit of a research hospital in DC. As a clerk in those wards she witnessed many doctor-patient and patient- nurse exchanges, with professionals working with people in the extremity of devastating diseases. From the beginning her long-time friend, the late director Derek Anson Jones, was involved in getting the play onstage; in fact he not only directed it in New York but read the character of Vivian Bearing, the authority on John Donne, at the script's first reading. Wit is Edson’s first play. She has written another but for the time being is much more interested in teaching young people how to read. Words from Director Kevin Moriarty
I asked Mr. Moriarty what particularly excited him about the play Wit, and what he thought those attending the play should know about it beforehand: First, the theme of the story deals directly with the question of how to live a life with meaning. The lead character in the play, a college professor who is dying of ovarian cancer, asks if life is best understood through thinking and analysis (her life in the ivory tower of academia; she has almost known no other) or through personal contact and relationships. Second, the play is wonderfully theatrical, including scenes that flashback in time to the past, as well as realistic hospital scenes in the present, and scenes that occur directly between Vivian Bearing and the audience, in which she takes us into her confidence and makes us laugh with her honest assessment of her situation. Third, the play features some amazing opportunities for actors to do great acting. Vivian is a character of complexity, depth, and fierce intelligence. It will be great fun to get to know her in the rehearsal room and to introduce her with clarity, passion and wit (!) to the audience. Finally, the play is very smart. It mixes, combines and contrasts a variety of ideas and styles, ranging from a discussion of John Donneâ€™s sonnets to issues of patient/doctor relationships and, ultimately, to the most profound questions of life and death. It is at one moment wry and funny and at the next painfully honest and moving. It will be rewarding to work with material that is so rich. It will challenge all of us at Syracuse Stage as we work to bring this beautiful, moving, profound play to life. Major points in the life of John Donne 1572 Born to John Donne, a prosperous London ironmonger, and a daughter of the dramatist John Heywood, Catholics, during Elizabeth Iâ€™s Protestant reign. His mother was a granddaughter of Sir Thomas More. 1588 Attends Cambridge but does not take a degree because, as a Catholic, he refuses to take the oath of allegiance to the Anglican Church. 1591-92
Attends Lincoln's Inn, the Elizabethan law school.
1598 After a great deal of consideration Donne becomes an Anglican, as that will afford him greater political advancement. He soon becomes Sir Thomas Egerton's secretary. Sir Egerton is Keeper of the Great Seal. 1601 Donne secretly marries Sir Egerton's niece Ann More, against her family's wishes. He is briefly imprisoned for this impropriety, but, more significantly, his career advancement comes to a standstill for nearly 15 years. Donne borrows money from and lives with friends in the interim.
1610 Receives an MA from Oxford. 1615 He becomes an Anglican priest at the urging of Thomas Morton, Dean of Gloucester, and the recommendations of Lord Ellesmere (Sir Thomas Egerton, elevated), Viscount Rochester and Lord Hay. He is named a chaplain to King James 1. 1616 His wife Ann dies, having borne 12 children, 7 of whom survived to adulthood. 1623 Suffers his first severe illness, which takes him nearly a year from which to recover. 1624 Serves as the vicar at St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, where he delivers his last sermon, "Death's Due]," on the first Friday in Lent, 163 1, before a congregation including King Charles 1. Donne sensed he was already dying. 1631 John Donne dies on March 31.
Death Be Not Proud Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe, For, those, whom thou think’st, thou does overthrow, Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee; From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee doe goe, Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie. Thou’art slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, And poppie, or charmes can make us sleep as well, And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then? One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die. “Holy Sonnet 6,” Helen Gardner’s John Donne: the Divine Poems, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1978/1952.
Helen Gardner on Donne’s place in Literary History John Donne: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1962. There is little evidence to suggest that Donne’s poetry was at all widely known before 1620. . . .The existence of a large number of manuscript copies, mainly dating from the 1620s, shows that by then Donne’s poems had reached a wider circle than the friends of
his youth, and as soon as he was dead his poems were got into print. They appeared in 1633 with an impressive collection of funeral elegies appended. The most famous of these is that by Thomas Carew, the most accomplished of the Caroline poets. He spoke for his generation when he wrote Donne’s “epitaph”: Here lies a King, that rule’d as hee thought fit The universall Monarchy of wit. It was the “wit” of Donne, not his music or his passion, or his dramatic force, that the Caroline poets tried to emulate, and it was because of a change in the notion of what “true wit” was that Donne sank in repute. There were further editions of his poems in 1635, 1639, 1649, 1650, 1654 and 1669. After this there was only one edition in over a hundred years: Tonson’s of 1719. In his Essay of Dramatick Poesy (1668) Dryden . . . praised [Donne] for giving us “deep thoughts in common language,” but adding the reservation “though rough cadence” [and, further:] “If we are not so great wits as Donne yet certainly we are better poets,” echoing his tribute in the preface to Eleonora the year before where he spoke of Donne as “the greatest Wit, though not the best Poet of our nation.” . . . More than the change in the conception of the proper language and true harmony of English verse led to the neglect of Donne in the eighteenth century. He lost his standing as a “great Wit” when wit was reduced, in Johnson’s phrase, “from strength of thought to happiness of language.” Johnson’s disquisition on the “race of writers that may be termed the metaphysical poets” . . . was in large measure a protest against this tame conception of wit, embodied in Addison’s famous essay and in Pope’s often-quoted definition: True Wit is Nature to advantage dress’d, What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expres’d. By his copious quotations from Donne, and his declaration that to write in the metaphysical manner “it was at least necessary to read and think,” Jonson brought back into literary discussion a body of poetry that had largely sunk into oblivion . . . as illustrative of a certain kind of “wit”: not his own “more noble and more adequate conception” of wit as that which is “at once natural and new,” but wit “more rigorously and philosophically considered as a kind of discordia concors: a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblance in things apparently unlike.” . . . The 20th century was to take . . . Johnson’s definitions but dispute the qualification with which he tempered his praise of these poets’ originality. What he regarded as perverse was to be exalted as the sign of a true individuality; and the more heterogeneous the ideas that the metaphysicals “yoked by violence together,” the more praise was thought due to them for capacity to fuse disparate experiences into a unity. The Donne revival begins with Johnson. All the same, admiration for Donne and the Metaphysicals was essentially an individual not a general preference for most of the 19th century. Coleridge, Lamb, DeQuincey praise Donne justly; but Hazlitt, condemning metaphysical poetry as “dry matter of fact, decked out in a robe of glittering conceits, and clogged with the halting shackles of verse” and Byron . . . would seem not to have read Donne at all, are perhaps
better guides to general opinion. The great Romantics, however, strike a new note in Donne criticism. Coleridge’s precious notes are mainly on the “Songs and Sonnets”: Lamb and Leigh Hunt valued the “warmth of soul and generous feeling” that shone through “Conceits” and the “Bewildering maze of tropes,” and both admired particularly the Elegy “On his Mistress,” which Hazlitt describes Lamb reading “with suffused features and a faltering tongue.” . . . Strength of personal feeling rather than wit is the quality for which he is praised. Some argue that this feeling shines through and glows in spite of the conceits; other find the secret of his power in the blend of feeling and wit, in the “union of opposite qualities.” From the time of the Romantics onward Donne is primarily, as he is today, the poet of the “Songs and Sonnets” and the Divine Poems. . . . It was among men of letters rather than academics that Donne first became the rage [in the 20th century]. At Cambridge, before the first World War, he was passionately admired by Rupert Brooke and his circle and Brooke’s two brief essays on Donne, inspired by Herbert J.C. Grierson’s edition, anticipated . . . ideas to which T.S. Eliot was to give wide currency. Brooke declared that with Donne, unlike other men, “when passion shook him . . . expression came through intellect,” noted his “lack of solemnity that does but heighten the sharpness of the seriousness,” and said that “it must not appear that his humor, or his wit, and his passion alternated.” . . . Grierson’s classic edition in 1912, the first edition of an English poet in old spelling . . . gave to Donne a standing with Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, and Pope as a poet to engage the full powers of scholarship. . . . The conception of Donne as a pioneer in developing “a justification of love as a natural passion in the human heart the meaning and end of which is marriage” and of doing justice “to love as a passion in which body and soul have their part” was very largely accepted. In the Twenties and Thirties Donne came to be thought of popularly as a kind of early D.H. Lawrence, boldly adumbrating a modern sexual ethic. . . . A brief but impressive work by Pierre Legouis, Donne the Craftsman (Paris, 1928) . . . drew attention first to Donne’s extreme originality as a metrist, and secondly to the pervasiveness of the dramatic element in his poetry. . . . By defining that art as akin to the art of the dramatist, it challenged the notion of Donne as writing directly out of passionate personal experience. . . . The Donne vogue also corresponded with the rise of what is called the “new criticism,” and Donne, whose poetry invited and repaid close analysis, was a favorite among the “new critics.” The term is a loose one, but it may be taken generally to distinguish critics who attempt to discuss a poem as an object per se, without reference to its historical or literary context. . . . It replaced the habit of quoting isolated lines and phrases and generalizing about a body of poems by the habit of attending to a poem as a whole, to the “texture” of its language, the organization of its argument and the relation of its images to each other. . . . Donne’s obvious interest in science had also engaged scholars, as had his interest in philosophic relativism. In popular treatments Donne’s scientific curiosity, his notable advice “Doubt wisely,” and his summary statement “the new Philosophy call all in doubt” were seized upon to create a powerfully attractive image of Donne as the spiritual brother to the modern agnostics. . . . As exemplar of the “Baroque doubt” Donne exerted as great fascination as he did as the prophet of sane sexual relations. . . . The very title of J.B. Leishman’s book, The Monarch of Wit (1951) indicated its rejection of the notion of “Donne the modern.” . . . Mr. Leishman argues against the term
metaphysical as applied to Donne and stresses instead the dialectical cast of his verse the expression in it of a “personal drama.” Mr. Leishman . . . attempted to separate poems purely witty from the “serious” poems, and he felt the fascination of the personality revealed in Donne’s works, concluding “Donne has often appeared to me a character whom Shakespeare might have invented.” His book, which was widely welcomed and [quickly went through 5 editions] is a notable attempt to define Donne’s peculiar genius as a man and a poet by setting him among writers of his own age and by studying his work as a whole. . . . It was quite independently that Professor Louis L. Martz and I began to explore the relation of Donne’s religious poetry to the current devotional practices of his age. In doing so we were following the trend shown in Mr. Leishman’s book: attempting to read Donne in the light of a knowledge of his age’s habits of thought, and to define his originality by a study to the traditions that he turned to his own purposes. This is the road that seems to be still to offer the best hope of arriving at the secret of his power. . . . [As for the trend to completely disassociate Donne’s private life from his writing, I cannot go as far as some Donne critics.] Although to try to connect particular lyrics with particular ladies and write a Vie Amouruse de John Donne out of the Elegies and “Songs and Sonnets” seem to me to be to chase a will-ofthe-wisp, I cannot believe that Donne’s poetry had no relation to the development of his moral, intellectual, and emotional life, and that his readers in our century were wholly astray in finding in his poetry the revelation of a very powerful individuality. If ideas were mere counters and playthings to him, why did he so persistently recur to certain ideas and not to others? . . . Can we doubt that the author of these Elegies, if not a rake, had a rake’s imagination? We may allow Mr. Smith that the question handled in “air and Angels” is a commonplace among the Italian love-casuists; but why did such “questions of love” so engage Donne’s imagination an why did he alone among the poets of his age give them such memorable expression? He was not the only Englishman of his day able to read Italian. The scholars and source-hunters (of whom I am one) have still [as of 1962] to explain why a whole generation in this century appropriated Donne and found in lines and phrases from his poems words that echoed the feelings of their own hearts. Fundamental Elements of the Patient-Physician Relationship Source: Report of the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs of the American Medical Association. Originally adopted June 1990. Updated 1994. From ancient times, physicians have recognized that the health and well-being of patients depends upon a collaborative effort between physician and patient. Patients share with physicians the responsibility for their own health care. The patient-physician relationship is of greatest benefit to patients when they bring medical problems to the attention of their physicians in a timely fashion, provide information about their medical condition to the best of their ability, and work with their physicians in a mutually respectful alliance.
Physicians can best contribute to this alliance by serving as their patients' advocates and by fostering these rights: 1. The patient has the right to receive information from physicians and to discuss the benefits, risks, and costs of appropriate treatment alternatives. Patients should receive guidance from their physicians as to the optimal course of action. Patients are also entitled to obtain copies or summaries of their medical records, to have their questions answered, to be advised of potential conflicts of interest that their physicians might have, and to receive independent professional opinions. 2. The patient has the right to make decisions regarding the health care that is recommended by his or her physician. Accordingly, patients may accept or refuse any recommended medical treatment. 3. The patient has the right to courtesy, respect, dignity, responsiveness, and timely attention to his or her needs. 4. The patient has the right to confidentiality. The physician should not reveal confidential communications or information without the consent of the patient, unless provided for by law or by the need to protect the welfare of the individual or the public interest. 5. The patient has the right to continuity of health care. The physician has an obligation to cooperate in the coordination of medically indicated care with other health care providers treating the patient. The physician may not discontinue treatment of a patient as long as further treatment is medically indicated, without giving the patient reasonable assistance and sufficient opportunity to make alternative arrangements for care. 6. The patient has a basic right to have available adequate health care. Physicians, along with the rest of society, should continue to work toward this goal. Fulfillment of this right is dependent on society providing resources so that no patient is deprived of necessary care because of an inability to pay for the care. Physicians should continue their traditional assumption of a part of the responsibility for the medical care of those who cannot afford essential health care. Physicians should advocate for patients in dealing with third parties when appropriate. What is Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order? From: The Associated Press website, downloaded Wednesday, May 3, 2000 A do-not-resuscitate order: what is it, why have one and under what conditions should it be signed? Gregg Parish, an estate planning expert at the College for Financial Planning [Denver, Co], discusses the medical order that focuses specifically on emergency treatment. Q. I am a retiree in rapidly deteriorating health. I've been told I should consider getting a "do-not-resuscitate order." What is it?
A. A do-not-resuscitate, or DNR order, is an official medical order signed by a doctor that tells hospital or other medical staff that you do not want to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) performed should you stop breathing or your heart stops. A DNR order is part of the broader category of advance medical directives that provides for medical decisions to be made when a person is too sick or unable to make decisions for himself or herself. A living will and a durable power of attorney for health care are the other forms of advance medical directives. Q. Why should I consider a DNR order? A. People who are in the late stages of cancer, experiencing kidney failure, severe heart problems, or other serious illnesses that are likely to attack the cardiopulmonary system may want to get a DNR order if they don't wish to prolong their illness. People who get a DNR order often have already been revived at least once with CPR. "They may not want to be revived again because they have decided they want to die in peace," says Parish. "You might call it a 'quality of death' issue." Financial issues are another reason someone might get a DNR order. They may feel they've worked hard to build an estate and they don't want to give much of it away at the end of their life to doctors and hospitals. Even with insurance, you can still end up owing money. Q. How do medical professionals know you have a DNR order? A. "It's up to the individual to let the health care provider know," Parish says. "People often put these (orders) in a bedside drawer and consequently health care providers never know they have one. Its where mistakes are commonly made that can nullify the intent of a DNR order." The document should be filed with a physician or hospital. Some people wear a bracelet or necklace that tells medical professionals they have a DNR order and where it can be found. Also, when people travel, move permanently, or live part time in another state, they often forget to take their original order with them. Some people are pushing to have a national registry for DNR orders, which would reduce this problem. Parish stresses that people should be sure a DNR order is turned into a doctor's order. "Don't leave it with the receptionist at the front desk," Parish says. "The doctor must issue the order and put it into your medical chart. Be sure the order is signed. Many people fail to do that." Talk about the order with your family and doctor. A study published in 1998 in the medical journal Circulation found that cardiologists were wrong 24 % of the time regarding whether their patients wanted to be resuscitated or not. Medical Terms Truthfully, one main reason why so much medical terminology is included in Wit is to demonstrate how bewildering they can be for non-medical professionals; it is not necessary to understand any of them that are not defined by either the doctors or Vivian herself. Nonetheless, for those inquiring minds among our audience, here are definitions.
Disease - from Old French: des - not and aise - ease. Lack of ease. adenocarcinoma - a malignant tumor originating in the epithelial cells of glandular tissue and forming glandular structures. adnexal mass - a tumor arising in or forming structures resembling skin appendages. antineoplastic - preventing (anti) the development, maturation or spread of new (neo), abnormal tissue growth (plastic, in the sense of: flexible) in animals or plants. (neoplasia - the pathological process that results in the formation and growth of abnormal tissues.) CC or cc - chief complaint (as recorded on a patient's chart or in a medical history) or cubic centimeter (as in measuring pain medication or other liquid drugs). cancer - any of the various malignant tissue growths characterized by the proliferation of anaplastic cells that tend to invade surrounding tissue and metastasize to new sites within the body; the pathological condition characterized by such growths. confluent - flowing together; blended into one; merging or running together so as to form a mass, as sores in a rash. coruscation - a sensation of a flash of light before the eyes. electrocardiogram - the curve traced by an electrocardiograph, an instrument used to detect and diagnosis heart abnormalities which generates a record of the electrical currents associated with heart muscle activity. epithelial carcinoma - the layer of modified cells that form around an invasive, malignant tumor derived from membranous tissues (epithelia) that form the cover of most internal surfaces and organs as well as the outer surface of animal bodies. hepatotoxicity - damage to or destruction of the liver. lymph - a clear/transparent/watery liquid containing white and red blood cells that travel through the lymphatic system to remove bacteria and some proteins from tissues, to transport fat from the intestines and to supply lymphocytes (white blood cells) to the blood. lymphatic - of or relating to lymph, a lymph node, or a lymphatic vessel. malignant - a disease (chiefly cancerous tumors) that is threatening to life; virulent, tending to metastasize or spread from its original site to one or more other sites within a body. myelosuppression/myeloma - a tumor composed of cells derived from blood-producing tissues in bone marrow.
neoplasia - the pathological process that results in the formation and growth of abnormal tissue growth in animals or plants, aka a tumor. nephrotoxicity - the quality or state of being toxic to kidney cells. neutropenia - a significant lack of neutrophils or white blood cells. neuropathy - a disease or abnormality of the nervous system, especially one affecting the cranial or spinal nerves. oncology - the branch of medicine dealing with the physical, chemical and biological properties of tumors, including study of their development, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. parietal - pertaining to either of the two large, irregularly quadrilateral bones (between the frontal and occipital bones) that together form the sides and top of the skull. peritoneal cavity - the space between the abdominal wall and the viscera (the abdominal organs). proctosigmoidoscopy - direct inspection of the rectum and sigmoid or S-shaped section of the colon using a sigmoidoscope. ultrasound - a diagnostic tool used to make visual an organ or developing fetus, to generate deep heat to specific tissues or to aid in the dissolution of calcium deposits (kidney stones, etc.) through the use of sound waves at higher ranges than those audible to humans.