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Dept. of Music & Theatre Arts to Perform “Wit”

The Department of Music & Theatre Arts will put on their production of Margaret Edson’s 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner “Wit” starting Thursday, Feb. 29 through Sunday, March 3 in Woods Theatre. The March 1 performance will feature a talkback with Dorothy Lobo, Ph.D., Chair of the Biology Department and Professor of Biology, Director Sheri Anderson, Specialist Professor of Music and Theatre Arts, and the cast of “Wit.”

According to Dramatists Play Service, the play follows the story of Dr. Vivian Bearing, a professor of seventeenth-century poetry—specifically the metaphysical sonnets of John Donne—and her journey after her diagnosis of terminal ovarian cancer. As a patient in an experimental chemotherapy program at a teaching hospital, Vivian reassesses her life in a transformative way.

Brooke Tortorelli, a senior music and mathematics student, plays Vivian in Monmouth’s rendition of the show. Though the show’s central character grapples with her diagnosis, Tortorelli explained that the play isn’t about cancer. “It is a play about life and the significance of the relationships we forge,” she said. “I am learning this lesson firsthand since this role is very difficult from an emotional standpoint, but I am very lucky that my friends and I can be open about how this story is affecting us. As an actor, I can confidently say this is the most challenging role I will ever play; Vivian Bearing is more puzzling and nuanced than any of John Donne’s sonnets. Truthfully, Vivian is stronger and smarter than I am, and I have learned a lot from her erudition and perseverance.”

Freshman economics/finance and musical theatre double major Kylensky Miracle plays the lead doctor, Kelekian. He said, “I believe this show is a great example of how important it is to be passionate about your study of field but also not undermine the people you come into contact with and influence. Brooke Tortorelli, our lead, has done a phenomenal job in portraying this professor and this message. She is sure to have the hearts of the audience.”

Julianna Chesla is an English student playing Dr. Evelyn M. Ashford, Vivian’s English professor in graduate school. Chesla also acted as an assistant director, choreographed the final sequence, and served as the head of costuming by crafting each costume on stage. “As someone who wishes to enter the education field as well, I saw myself in Dr. Ashford. Her dedication to her craft and defensiveness of the art is something that I wish to strive for with my own students,” explained Chesla. “‘Wit’ is a beautiful story about life itself… At its core, ‘Wit’ is about slowing down to appreciate life for what it is now. I believe any person, especially those currently in college, needs to hear this message.”

The cast of “Wit” isn’t solely comprised of Monmouth students; Stuart Rosenberg, Ph.D., Professor of Management and Leadership, plays Mr. Bearing, Vivian’s father. “Wit” is Rosenberg’s first performance since high school, when he acted in “Something Special” at River Dell High School in Oradell, New Jersey, during his senior year. “I had mentioned to Professor Anderson last year that I had begun to take acting lessons, and she told me that she had a part for me in ‘Wit,’” he clarified. The scene he’s featured in is a flashback that shows Vivian’s earlier years. He continued, “I am delighted to be part of the cast; I am proud that the Theatre Arts program at Monmouth is putting on such an important play, and I am equally proud of all the terrific students who are part of the production.”

“I think this show is a great opportunity for members of the community because it is an artistic twist on challenging situations,” said Annie Sacks, a senior elementary special education student who plays the role of Vivian’s nurse Susie Monohan. “It allows the cast and the audience to reflect on these hard yet touching moments and connect them back to personal experiences.”

Tortorelli elaborated on this sentiment. “[The play] serves as a reminder to be kind to others,” she began. “I hope that people walk away from this performance wanting to compliment a stranger and tell someone that they love them. Also, Vivian Bearing was so focused on her work that she neglected to take care of her health. I often ask myself if Vivian’s outcome would have been different if she went to the doctor earlier, instead of prioritizing the article that she was writing. We will never know, but I hope that the people watching this play are reminded that they need to take care of themselves.”

Tortorelli, in light of her character’s unfortunate circumstances, organized a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society as Treasurer of MU Players. “Upon getting cast as this role, I made a promise to myself that I would give back to the people whose reality is my fiction. We will be holding a bake sale on February 28 in the Student Center from 2-4, in which all proceeds will be donated.”

Further donations can be made to the fundraiser by visiting this link.