Health Team

'Wit' brings human battle with ovarian cancer to stage

Posted April 29, 2016 10:20 a.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2016 6:24 p.m. EDT

A Pulitzer Prize winning drama is now in Raleigh with the North Carolina Theater.

It's called "Wit," a story of courage that depicts one woman's experience of living and dying with ovarian cancer.

The show's purpose is not just to entertain but to also inform viewers—with the hope of saving lives.

"The preparation for this was really intense," said actress Judy McClane.

As the lights come up on the drama "Wit," McClane transforms into the character of Dr. Vivian Bearing, a renowned professor of English.

The audience will see her after she's already lost her hair while fighting ovarian cancer.

"You find out that this woman who spent years in the study of mortality, in a scholarly sense, is now coping with it herself," McClane said of her character.

"And she goes on a remarkable journey of moving, as I would say, from her head to her heart," said North Carolina Theater CEO Lisa Grele Barrie.

The North Carolina Theater occasionally presents dramas to spur community conversation about women's health.

"There is a beautiful feeling of community spirit that the audience feels," Barrie said.

Melanie Bacheler experienced the drama in real life while watching her mother fight with ovarian cancer starting 14 years ago.

"She was 54 when she was diagnosed, and she lived two years and two months," Bacheler said.

Bacheler started the annual Gail Parkins Memorial Walk in honor of her mother to raise money for research and to support other families. She sees the play as a way to inspire more women to be proactive about their own health

"Ovarian cancers—survival rate when caught early—is amazing. It's like 90 percent, but only 5 to 10 percent of all cases are caught early," Bacheler said.

This is not just a tragic drama; McClane says: Even on stage as Dr. Bearing, the show fills her with hope

"It's a beautiful ending in the sense that we're going to a better place," McClane said.

The play at the AJ Fletcher Theater in downtown Raleigh begins April 29 and continues through May 8, which is World Ovarian Cancer Day.

[Editor's note: Judy McLane, the lead actress interviewed, has withdrawn from the production due to personal reasons.]