It’s been 17 years since WIT’s debut. Margaret Edson’s popular play, which examines the experience of a poetry professor undergoing experimental treatment for ovarian cancer, has since garnered the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, among other awards. Now Wit returns to the Broadway stage with Manhattan Theatre Club’s production, directed by Lynne Meadow and starring Sex and the City favorite Cynthia Nixon. Healthline caught up with Atlanta-based author Margaret Edson, the wit behind WIT, to discuss the current production, her career as an elementary school teacher, and whether she ever plans to write again.
It’s been 17 years since the first production of WIT. As the play’s creator, do you still consider it your baby?
The play doesn’t belong to the playwright. It belongs to the director who really creates the performance.
How involved are you with the current production?
I have seen this production. I met the cast in December during their rehearsals and the production is the creation of the director Lynn Meadow. What’s interesting to me is that the text is the same, but each production has its own spirit. The spirit of the current production is a beautiful, delicate, sensitive, hilarious, tragic, and wonderful ride.
The lead character, Professor Bearing has been played by countless actresses. Do you have a favorite?
No, each performer gives it her own grace.
The play was inspired by your time working as a clerk on an oncology/AIDS unit in the mid-80s. Why did you decide to write about a cancer patient rather than an AIDS patient?
It was the early beginnings of HIV and AIDS, but ovarian cancer suits Professor Bearing very well because it’s undetectable at an early stage, yet women who’ve had it said they knew something was wrong, yet it was difficult to diagnose till it metastasized. So it suits her well that something is vaguely wrong with her but it’s not palpable.
In your opinion, is the play about cancer or is it about something else entirely?
To me the play is not about cancer. It’s about how one person comes into their true self and the circumstance of her undoing happened to be cancer because it was a convenient way to bring about her turn of grace.
What advice would you give to a woman battling ovarian cancer?
It would be presumptuous of me, but the advice I’d give to any person going through something is let’s show up for each other.
You were a kindergarten teacher before and you currently teach social studies to sixth graders. That might surprise a lot of your fans who’d imagine that with your prestigious background you could be teaching university students at Harvard or Oxford. Why teach sixth graders?
I had been teaching kindergarten, and this is my second year teaching sixth grade. I love teaching, love the students, and love being in the classroom. Both kindergarten and sixth grade are impactful and intriguing periods in a person’s life. They’re times of great awakening and alertness. They’re like people in a foreign country, who are resourceful and alert and open to new things in a way I find engrossing.
Do you plan on writing another play?
Not anytime soon, but if something strikes me, then sure.
Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of WIT runs through March 11 at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street). Tickets are available by calling Telecharge at 212-239-6200, online by visiting www.Telecharge.com, or by visiting the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Box Office (261 West 47th Street). Ticket prices are $57 – $116. For more information on MTC, please visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.