Lisa Tejaro is Whip-Smart in "Wit"
Lisa Tejaro is one of Chicago's finest actors, giving what the Chicago Sun-Times calls "a whip-smart, ultimately crushing performance" in The Hypocrites production of "Wit". Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Margaret Edson’s play is a haunting tale of loss and meditation on life, directed by Marti Lyons. Lisa plays Dr. Vivian Bearing, who recounts her battle with cancer and struggles to accept her approaching end. Wit runs until February 19, 2017 at The Den Theatre. For more information, look here.
What's your personal story?
I'm a daughter of an immigrant doctor from the Philippines (whose father was a merchant immigrant there, from China), my mother was a nurse who grew up on a farm in the midwest though her parents were both from the Blueridge mountains of Virginia & my great aunt was amember of the D.A.R.. My childhood backdrop was small midwest towns in Illinois, Wisconsin & Mo. After graduating w/ my BFA from Webster College in St. Louis, & living abroad in the Philippines for a year, I moved to Chicago & not only fell in love w/ the city but the theatre scene, and though I travel a lot for work, and despite ( or because of...?) weathering almost 3 decades of winter here, I still consider myself a Chicagoan.
How do you describe Dr. Bearing in "Wit”?
Smart, Smart & Smart, & oh - very tough. Vivian Bearing is extremely intelligent, & has always depended on that to define herself, and survive so she has become extremely self-sufficient but also somewhat isolated. She's a strong female lone-wolf, who is suddenly ailing. She has high standards even for herself which though at one point gave her great pride she now realizes the hollowness of that pride as her sole/soul self worth & the value of the "pack".
What challenges does Vivian face telling her story?
Through her scholarly mind she has rationalized & compartmentalized what living & dying should be like, but through her diagnosis of stage 4 cancer & 8 months of intensive extreme & experimental chemotherapy, she discovers that she no longer finds comfort in her intellect or scholarly pursuits. Though Vivian sees herself as a great seeker of truth of the human experience it is her own pride of that intellect & the fear of not being good enough to deserve any "transcendence"as her own "mortal coil" loosens.
Her challenges are:
Internally-her own mind, her own intellect, her own fear, her own body Externally-cancer, treatment of cancer, a medical system that can myopically only see the disease & not the person w/ the disease, and time, and time, and time.
How does she overcome those challenges?
She is gradually Humbled by her own bodies failings & humanity. In the end once she can fully accept that she & let of of her hubris, she is able to reconnect w/ her inner child soul that allows her to incorporate wanting, asking & receiving & ultimately valuing human camaraderie through simple acts of kindness.
Any other comments?
When I first got cast in the late spring of 2016, even then I knew I wanted to be truthful to her unapologetic "flintiness", but also be empathetic to her journey as well. Because the story is extremely universal-The truth of what it is to be human in all our own glory & shortcomings and how we shall meet our own death in the light of that. We shall experience that in our own way. Empathy to ourselves & others is a big part of how we can transcend our own fear & hopefully other's fears as well. All of which feels even more timely now.