SAN ANTONIO: She is the patient in a major research and teaching hospital undergoing treatment for advanced ovarian cancer, and she knows the prognosis is not good. It is a story that happens too often, but in this case, art is imitating life.
Saint Mary’s Hall will present the award-winning stage play, “Wit,” April 4th and 5th at the Coates Seeligson Theater/Chapel. Written by Margaret Edson, the play takes place over the course of about 12 months in a patient room of the University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center and in various places in the memory of the leading character, Vivian Bearing.
“My students and I considered a variety of different scripts for our spring production,” said Saint Mary’s Hall Drama Teacher James Venhaus. “We read several scripts aloud to see which ones would be a good fit for our group, and “Wit” had a profound emotional impact on my students after just the first reading. We discussed the challenges of producing such a challenging play, and I was pleased at the fearlessness, and enthusiasm my students showed. They are anxious to take on the challenge.”
Edson wrote “Wit” after working in a research hospital. She was able to use some of the dilemmas of medical research to enhance her central theme. Her protagonist is part of a clinical trial for a new drug regimen to fight ovarian cancer.
The fight is nothing new to the staff at The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Their mission has always been to conquer cancer through research, prevention and treatment.
Recognized as a leading cancer center dedicated to the development of novel therapies and an uncompromising commitment to understanding the complex nature of cancer, its causes and consequences, CTRC’s dedicated doctors and support personnel live the story of “Wit” everyday.
“Ovarian cancer remains a serious health threat to women. It has no useful early detection test as does breast cancer,” said Tyler Curiel, M.D., executive director of the Cancer Center at The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and an ovarian cancer specialist who serves as the medical advisor to the cast of “Wit.” “There is no reliable fall-back strategy if frontline therapy fails. My lab focuses on developing novel means to treat ovarian cancer, especially by harnessing the body’s own immune system. We have a large research team dedicated to finding new treatment avenues at the CTRC, and have ongoing clinical trials testing new agents.”
To support their work, box office proceeds from the April 5th performance of “Wit” will go to CTRC to help continue the fight against ovarian cancer. Following that performance, a “talk-back” opportunity will be held with the audience involving the cast and Dr. Curiel from the CTRC. Discussion topics include the play, ovarian cancer, and the current treatment options.
Venhaus says “There is nothing in a typical teenager’s experience that helps them relate to these issues. That is why we knew early in the rehearsal process that we needed the guidance and support of the CTRC as consultants to help us portray these characters and these issues with the respect they deserve. When we first sought out the CTRC for consultation, many of my students felt a deep need to do something to benefit the CTRC and their patients. Early on, one student suggested that by donating the proceeds of our ticket sales, we could not only raise awareness of this issue, but we could raise a significant amount of money to benefit ovarian cancer treatment and research.”
Saint Mary’s Hall is unique among private schools, offering formal drama classes to students in grades 1 through 12. In Lower School, drama is a permanent part of the arts rotation, with a full-time drama teacher directing each class every third day.
Founded in 1879, Saint Mary’s Hall is a private, coeducational, college-preparatory, day school rich in tradition and committed to academic excellence. Saint Mary’s Hall is located on 60 wooded acres in northeast San Antonio and boasts a faculty of 138 and an enrollment of more than 900 students prekindergarten through grade 12. Saint Mary’s Hall is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest and offers a broad and demanding academic program.