• Wit- Hallie Flanagan Theatre, Grinnell College

  • Wit- Hallie Flanagan Theatre, Grinnell College

  • Wit

    Wit, by Margaret Edson tells the story of Professor Vivian Bearing's battle with ovarian cancer. Bearing, the premier scholar of John Donne's Holy Sonnets, begins the play with two hours left to live, and she throughout the play she takes the audience on a journey through her diagnosis and treatment over the previous eight months.

    As Bearing faces the end of her life, she struggles with her legacy. What is most important about living, a sharp wit, human connection, a exceptional body of scholarship, or a combination of all these things? Through Donne's sonnets, Bearing explores the meaning of her own life and the impersonal, inhuman aspects of her treatment.

    Design Context

    The aspect of the play that most interested me as scenic designer was the juxtaposition of Donne and Bearing's poetry with the machine of the hospital and Bearing's treatment. The poetry has a lyrical, curvalinear quality that is in opposition to the purposeful, direct, and impersonal quality of a hospital.

    Our goal was to use the scenic design to create the machine of the hospital and allow the characters, their language, and their movements to present the humanity and poetic aspects of the production.

    This led to a number of ground plans and renderings, all of which contained right-angled blocking patterns, cold/harsh material choices, and a sterile environment. Cold, white wallpaper, hard floor tiles, plastic bumper-railings, and the exaggerated height of the walls all came from these ideas.

    Central to creating the blocking patter of hard, straight lines was the simple tile patter on the floor. I created a 1' outline in the tile to create a central room in the space. The area surrounding the square could be utilized as hallway, forcing the nurses, doctors, and hospital technicians to reinforce the verticallity of the walls and the right-angles in the hallways with sharp, right-angled turns.

    In contrast, when Bearing breaks out of a scene to address the audience or engage in a memory sequence, the actors would break away from the straight lines of the set and cross in arcs or curvalinear patterns.

    We also made some scenic choices to reinforce the poetic moments of the script, including tracking scenery, magical appearance of props, and a transformable desk, which was utilized to create multiple spaces.

    Hallie Flanagan Theatre - Grinnell College

    Flanagan Theatre is a 45' x 45' multi-form blackbox with a 3'-wide gallery 10' above the stage floor. The grid is 22' above the stage floor.

    For Wit the space was arranged in a proscenium layout, with the audience seated on the East side.

    Production Photographs

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    Wit Production Photographs

    Wit Scenic Detail Photographs

Production Photographs

Rimers of Eldritch

Scenic Drawings

Scenic Detail Images