Triad Stage paired with the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to stage the play Wit at the HanesBrand theatre on Spruce Street this month.
Wit is a somber tale centered on a woman professor, Vivian Bearing, of John Donne poetry, who must withstand eight months of intense chemotherapy for her metastatic Stage IV ovarian cancer.
“When we saw it coming to the stage, we thought, let’s take advantage of this event and still use it as a course requirement,” said Suzanne Reich, the associate director of the Physician Assistant’s program at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has been using the film, Wit, for years as an educational tool for students to learn more about the humanistic side of patient care. By watching a play instead of a movie, the students were able to reflect on the significance of Wit by personally talking with the actors and actresses. The discussions focused on the experience of fulfilling their character roles and the impact these positions had on them.
“We use it to focus on provider-patient communication, both the good and the bad. We [ask questions such as] what did you learn from this? What were the pitfalls? What will you remember when you are provider of what to do and what not to do?” said Reich.
The play is staged on one backdrop, a hospital room, and mostly consists of dialogue between the main character, played by Kate Goehring, her doctors, students and family members in her life.
Through this dialogue, Wit explores the deeper meaning of life and the ways that an illness can reveal what is important in one’s own life. “This play about losing life has taught me much about what there is to gain,” said director Dani Keil in the director’s note to the audience.
The audience walked away with somber expressions and tears in their eyes. “I like to see what our local performers can do,” said Philis Dunning, who saw Wit in the 1990s when it was first released and said that, although she couldn’t remember clearly what happened due to her old age, she remembers how powerful the show was.
On top of strong reactions to the play, Goehring embodied her role by shaving her head.
“I thought the question to the actor playing the patient about how she was treated out in public as a bald person was so interesting,” said Abbie Eaton, a Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center PA student. “I would have thought most people would have tried to avoid eye contact, walk the other way, etc. versus going more out of their way to smile.” Goehring told students that people tended to be friendlier towards her and smile at her more than when she had hair.
Goehring is an actress out of New York, New York who has starred in television shows, theater productions and movies. In Wit, Goehring not only forms a personal connection to her character, she said she formed a connection to the Winston-Salem community through living here as well as speaking with the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center students and professors after the play.
“It’s always a privilege to work for Triad Stage, and the inclusion of Wake in its planning is masterful; what’s revealed is the unparalleled level of openness and compassion community-wide. Winston- Salem’s audiences are showing me what true connection can be,” said Goehring in her YouTube video to the public.
Eaton said that the play will help her when she starts treating patients. “Yes I think it [Wit] was helpful. It’s one thing to read about patient scenario’s, or sit in lecture about listening to patients and dealing with end of life care, versus seeing it in person,” said Eaton.
Attached is a personal video by Kate Goehring on “Why W;t,” which can be found on YouTube at the following web address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1EA6jfR_o8&feature=youtu.be
Also attached in the interview with Suzanne Reich: http://www.wxii12.com/news/interview-physician-assistant-field/35731790