For the second year in a row, KU anthropologist, Sandra Gray is playing the lead role in Wit, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a professor diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Its taking its toll, Gray said. Its almost harder doing it a second time. Its a pretty demanding role.
She laughed and joked that her students may see the plays character take over the actress as rehearsals intensify demands on her daily activities, which include a run at 5 a.m., settling into her office by 7:30 a.m. and teaching three classes.
Certainly students noted the last week before the play that Gray had shaved her head in preparation for playing a patient who ex-priences hair loss during chemotherapy treatment.
The play by Margaret Edson is based on the life and death of Vivian Bearing, an English professor whose studies focused on the 17th-century metaphysical poet John Donne. Written in 1995, Edsons play won a Pulitzer Prize in 1999.
Gray said she is using the play to prompt discussions on issues surrounding cancer and medicine in one of her classes this semester, Human Biology Seminar. Students in that class will present research papers on cancer for their class requirements.
Gray worked in professional theatre for 13 years before she began graduate work in anthropology, specializing in biological anthropology.
Last year, Gray appeared in the same role in a Washburn University production directed by Penny Weiner. Lawrence Community Theatre director Mary Doveton asked Weiner to bring her production to Lawrence.
Gray noted that the LCT production is dedicated to the memory of Sally and Robert Hersh. Mr. Hersh had directed KUs human biology program for many years before he died of cancer. Mrs. Hersh, an educator who served on the LCT board and had originally suggested that LCT perform Wit, was diagnosed with cancer in September 2001 and died in October.
They were both people who helped me immensely in my early years here. I am in the human biology program because of Bob for whom I had tremendous respect, Gray said.
Performances will be at the Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 New Hampshire, at 8 p.m. March 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16; at 7:30 p.m. March 7 and 14; and 2:30 p.m. March 3 and 10. Tickets are $14 for students and senior citizens and $15 for adults. Thursday and Sunday tickets cost $11 for students and seniors and $12 for adults.