Rochester Civic Theatre inaugurates its new studio theater Friday with the opening of the drama “Wit.”
“I wanted to celebrate the tradition of studio theaters,” said Gregory Stavrou, RCT executive director, who is directing “Wit.” “The production is quite stark. Other than the lighting, there are no technical embellishments. We’re intentionally working in black and white and shades of grey, with occasional splashes of color.”
The play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1999, is about Vivian Bearing, a literature professor, who is dying from ovarian cancer. She reflects on her life as doctors and nurses come in and out of her hospital room.
Stavrou is directing the play with an all-female cast. The male roles in the original script are being played by women. “It’s fascinating to see what happens,” as a result of that switch, he said.
In the cast are Kathleen Sullivan, a Twin Cities actor, as Vivian, with Misha Johnson, Rebecca Sands, Suzanne Eastlund and Debbie Fuehrer handling multiple roles.
In keeping with the studio theatre tradition, Stavrou is collaborating with the cast on several aspects of the production. “Many of the scenes have been directly incorporating the ideas of the actors,” he said.
The actors will be on stage for the entire production, seated at chairs in the corners of the stage when not directly involved in a scene. Again, Stavrou said, “It’s an homage to studio theater traditions.”
“Wit” was originally scheduled to be produced last year, but was rescheduled. Stavrou said the play is a natural for the new studio space.
“I think it’s an important piece of contemporary theater,” he said. “Particularly what Vivian recognizes, that life is not all about wit or cleverness. It’s about absolutely the importance of kindness. and the recognition of our own vulnerability.”
Stavrou said he hopes this is the first of a series of medicine-related plays at RCT. “I think RCT, at least once a year, should do a play that overtly explores health and medicine,” he said.