W;T by Margaret Edson

Mainstage Production directed by Ann Marie Pereth & Joseph Kucan

October 27, 2017 – November 19, 2017
The Usual Place | 100 S. Maryland Pkwy., Las Vegas, NV 89101

She dies at the end. But Vivian Bearing, Ph.D. of English Literature and famed poetry scholar, doesn’t go down without a fight, volunteering for 8 rounds of painful, experimental treatment to combat late-stage ovarian cancer. W;t takes the audience with her, sharing her fears and revelations, her triumphs and melancholy, her devotion to John Donne’s use of the semi-colon. W;t is that rarest of plays – a Pulitzer-prize winning work of art that challenges both the mind and the spirit. She dies at the end, but not before captivating us with a poignant look at life and death, sickness and poetry.

Directors’ Note (from the program)

Let’s talk about that semicolon.

In his book A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. famously writes, “Here is a lesson in creative writing. The first rule: do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

Vivian Bearing has been to college. She is, in fact, a distinguished scholar of 17th-century poetry specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne. She wears her PhD like a shield of protective armor, a seemingly invincible barrier between herself and the tiresome, boorish world around her. And Vivian Bearing knows semicolons. And commas and exclamation points and hyphens and parentheticals. And periods – Vivian Bearing is growing acutely aware of periods.

When we’re reading and we reach a period, we know we’ve come to the end. We stop, sometimes for just a moment, and then move on to the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next chapter. A period tells us the small action of the sentence is finished – the subject has been successfully verbed, the verb successfully tensed, the tense successfully realized. All punctuation, in fact, is just the writer’s way of controlling our breathing – a pause on the comma, breath held through a parenthetical, full-stop on the period. What then do we make of the semicolon? The rules are simple: a) Use a semicolon between independent clauses not linked by a conjunction, and b) Use semicolons between items in a series when the items contain commas. See? Simple.

Except that it’s not.

Because Vivian Bearing knows that semicolons also illuminate transition – two separate thoughts that are given equal importance in a phrase. And Vivian Bearing is facing a remarkable transition. Her passage through her illness, her evolution as a human being, her passing from this world to the next are all transitions worthy of the weight of the semicolon. For Vivian Bearing, her long journey to her life’s final period is much too dramatic to be supported by the flimsy comma. No, Vivian Bearing needs exclamation points. And a semicolon.

JK and AMP, October 2017