Pulitzer-Winning Playwright Takes the Stage at Davidson Nov. 22

Davidson College invites the public to a lecture by renowned playwright Margaret Edson at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22, in the Alvarez College Union C. Shaw Smith 900 Room; there is no charge to attend. Edson won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1999 for her play Wit and will discuss its themes in a presentation titled, "Our Stories, Our Selves: Ethical Communication in Medicine."

The event is part of the Ethics Forum series hosted by the Vann Center for Ethics, with co-sponsorship provided by the English and theatre departments. For more information call 704-894-2095.

David Perry, director of the Vann Center, said Edson is not only an expert in the field of bioethics, but an exceptionally effective speaker.

"I met Margaret Edson at the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities conference in Atlanta, and she was just delightful," he said. "I know that her lecture will be both intellectually engaging and entertaining."

Edson's play, Wit, portrays the struggles of a highly respected English professor who has advanced cancer and is treated as a test subject rather than a patient while staying at a teaching and research hospital.

Wit has not only won a Pulitzer Prize, but also the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Lucille Lortel Award and the Oppenheimer Award. An HBO film version of the play starring Emma Thompson won an Emmy in 2001. In the spring of 2013, the Davidson Community Players presented Wit to sold-out audiences.

Edson currently teaches sixth-grade social studies in Atlanta, but she began writing Wit while working in a bike shop in her hometown of Washington, D.C., in 1991. She based much of the play on her previous experience serving as a unit clerk on a cancer floor in a Washington hospital.

Perry explained that Edson is a good fit for the Ethics Forum because of her work experience and growing student interest in pre-medicine, medical humanities, biomedical research and biomedical ethics courses.

"She'll provoke us to be more cognizant of the importance of compassion for the welfare of those with terminal illnesses and to not to get so wrapped up in goals of biomedical research that we forget the human element," he said.

In addition to her public lecture, Edson will meet with three classes that have either seen or read Wit: "Reading Violence," "Introduction to Theatre Arts," and "Film as Narrative Art."

While both the public lecture and class visits have the potential to profoundly influence participants, Perry said guest speakers often find the class visits especially valuable. The speakers enjoy conversing with people who have closely studied their work, and students have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the work from its source.

"It's a nice change of pace for students to approach ethical issues in a slightly different manner than they would using an analytical essay written by a theologian or philosopher," he said. "It can be very powerful to use a play or film to evoke concerns that might be harder to draw from an essay."

Perry hopes that after hearing Edson speak, those who have not yet seen or read the play will be inspired to do so.


  • November 18, 2013