April 22, 2004

Controlled laughter: On guard for wittiness

Over break, I picked up Emma Thompson's mug on the cover of a movie named Wit. After reading the back of the box, I didn't think I could take such a depressing subject: cancer, for anything, as cutely named as it is.

Then I remembered, we are reading that in class. You know, the really tiny book with the Pulitzer Prize label on the front. I put back the movie, knowing that, for me, watching the movie first is a bad idea--you always have the director's characters and sets in your mind, inhibited mentally.

I finished the play tonight. Very short and easy. However, I couldn't tell in many places where the wit was being employed. When I did laugh, I was careful; I mean Vivian, the protagonist, has metastatic ovarian cancer--dying and I am laughing amid her pain. I felt like slime when I broke a grin.

Though tragedies often have comedic relief, this function is usually delegated to one or two characters, such as the nurse in Romeo and Juliet or Touchstone in As You Like It. However, in Wit, she is the comedic relief; the laughter stems from her knowledge, her critical views of those working around her. I think I need to see the movie to get a better idea of the mannerisms. I tried to imagine the story, but as a reader who has not endured such a situation, I find myself lacking in this area.

When someone is in depression or has lost a loved one, I don't say, "I understand what you are going through." I think I feel the same way about this play. I don't have the experience. I have acted before, but I haven't played a dying role. If I were to take on a part such as this, I would perform many interviews to get a better indication of what their situation is like, trying to step in their shoes, watching and mimicking their actions. That is why I can't wait to see the film; the visual interpretation will help me discern the laughable parts.

Via Dictionary.com

n 1: a message whose ingenuity or verbal skill or incongruity has the power to evoke laughter [syn: humor, humour, witticism, wittiness]

The natural ability to perceive and understand; intelligence.
Keenness and quickness of perception or discernment; ingenuity. Often used in the plural: living by one's wits.

Wit, as an emotional/personality entity, is described in both ways. When the technician asks her name, for instance, and she says, "Lucy, Countess of Bedford," (Edson 17) the reader can laugh at her use of another, outlandish name, and that she knows they are not listening to her as a person, but rather as an elaborate science project.

I liked the ending because it gave her the power over death, which parallels Donne's "Death Be Not Proud" theme of death's transience. Vivian chose the DNR order, she was given morphine (poppie (Donne l. 11)) to ward off the pain, and finally took a "short sleepe [to wake] eternally," (Donne l. 13) "naked, and beautiful, reaching for the light--" (Edson 85).

Loved it. I didn't stop, except for a short 1/2 hour snooze, but I woke up and couldn't wait for the climax. I can't wait to watch it and read what my peers think. Consider this blog as a place for preliminary thoughts. However, I don't think any of my peers will be reading this, as busy as everyone is, but feel free to comment anyway.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at April 22, 2004 6:39 PM

Hey Amanda,
I actually watched the movie first this time. It was an awesome movie, I highly recommend it. The movie actually inspired me to read the book, and it helped a lot. Emma Thompson did a fabulous job, and the movie's interpretation helped me visualize the book.
In the play I like how Vivian's professor stressed "And death shall be no more 'semicolon' death 'coma' thou shalt die" I think that's how it went. As she stressed that coma signified a pause from an ephemeral life on earth to an eternal life in heaven. My favorite scene was when her professor read her the story about the Runaway Bunny (Running away from God but He'll always find you). I never took that story to be an allegory, but reflecting on it, I see how it could be. But the really poignant scene I think, is when Vivian mentioned the word soporific and the nurse(i forgot her name) told Vivian that she didn't know what that meant but "it'll make her sleepy" anyway, that was an ultimate classic. That was hilarious too! Overall the movie did it for me, it motivated me to read the text.

hey Amanda just a little side question out of the blue, I've noticed that you're very fervent in writing (and in journalism), you're so set in your goals, I on the other hand is doubting my career plans, I blogged about it recently and I was wandering if you could comment in my blog, thanks!

Posted by: Michael Diezmos at April 23, 2004 9:57 AM

Nice job, Amanda. I have to say that I, too, felt pretty horrible in laughing at parts of the play. It didn't seem right.

I've decided that if I ever saw that this was being performed somewhere locally that I would love to see it. I enjoyed it--dogged laughter, tears and all :^)

Posted by: Karissa at April 23, 2004 12:38 PM

I think if it ever comes to town we have to see it. The live playing of it probably beats the movie anyway.

Posted by: Amanda at April 23, 2004 3:21 PM

I prefer live performances on stage to Hollywood any day of the week! (that's just me... I'm a theater nut sometimes. I miss my days on stage *sad face*)

Posted by: Karissa at April 24, 2004 12:14 AM

Me too. Nothing like hot lights and profuse amounts of make-up. I think I told you this, Karissa, but I wore a beard several times. Latex adhesive stinks.

Posted by: Amanda at April 24, 2004 12:39 AM

The only time I played a guy in a show I didn't actually have to be a guy--we changed the role of Big Jule (the gangster from Chicago) in "Guys n Dolls" to a female role merely by making it a surprise that I was a woman (hair stuffed in my hat) and changing pronouns :^) No beard for me!

Nonetheless, if "W;t" were performed at SHU, I think I would want to play Vivian--she's so intuitive and genuine, despite her w;tt;ness


Posted by: Karissa at April 24, 2004 10:04 AM

hi im a 15 year old girl and i just wanted to say that this website isnt really that great. when i read it i really didnt feel like i was getting that great of imformation. please make it better

thank you


Posted by: katie at May 9, 2006 8:35 AM

nice job amanda

Posted by: katlin at May 9, 2006 8:36 AM
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