Arts & Entertainment

Alum Takes Chicago Stage, Thanks Loyola for Igniting Passion

Wit-Poster (1)

BY ISRAA ELHALAWANY

Chicago’s AstonRep Theatre Company will be presenting the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, WIT, featuring Loyola alum Drew Wieland.

Wieland, 25, from Bloomington-Normal, Ill., graduated this past December with a degree in theater arts. He previously held roles in Loyola’s productions of Burial at Thebes and Guys and Dolls.

WIT tells the story of Vivian Bearing, a renowned English professor who finds herself the subject of research designed to save her life from stage IV ovarian cancer. Wieland plays Dr. Jason Posner, a young clinical fellow in medical oncology specializing in research. Dr. Posner used to be one of Vivian’s students when he was an undergrad, but now that he’s her doctor, the roles have been reversed.

“What I like best about [my character] is that he’s very passionate about what he’s doing and he doesn’t really have a filter,” Wieland said. “He just kind of says what’s on his mind and that’s not always the best thing in the hospital context, but it’s been fun to get to explore that.”

Wieland is no stranger to this complicated role, however; he played the part of Dr. Posner six years ago, in Loyola’s production of WIT.

“I feel like any time I finish a show, I wish I could do it again because I had learned so much through the entire process, so it’s cool to have a chance to actually get to do it again,” he said.

According to Wieland, he was able to make better choices for his role for the AstonRep Theatre production, since he has a better sense of who the character is now. The role is also given new life through working with a new cast and crew.

“It’s kind of a heavy show,” Wieland said. “It’s about a woman dying of ovarian cancer, [but] Derek, the director, has been able to keep things really light in rehearsal, which is really great.”

Wieland initially wanted to study theater in Chicago because of the connections and opportunities the city has to offer.

“Being right here, to be able to go on auditions and see theater, as often as I can — going to school in Chicago has been immensely helpful.”

WITAccording to Wieland, Loyola has prepared him to start his career by giving him a sense of what to expect in the real world. Especially since the work is just as hard, if not even harder, on professional productions.

“Part of it is the energy that you bring. Everybody is going to come in with a different level of energy but whatever you bring to it is what you’re going to get back out of it,” Wieland said, reflecting on his time at Loyola.

During his time at Loyola, Wieland became unsure about pursuing acting as a career. He took some time off of school and moved to Arizona. While there, he took some acting classes to see if he still liked the idea.

After doing this, his plan was to come back to Chicago, finish his theater degree and go on to graduate school to study something else. In fact, he was thinking about pursuing a career in journalism and perhaps becoming a theater critic.

He had his heart set on not becoming an actor until he returned to Loyola’s theater department last fall.

“Immediately I was like, what the hell have I been thinking? Why have I not done this for the past five years?”

With the exception of a few acting classes, when he left Chicago and was living in Arizona, he stopped going to the theater, reading plays and talking about it because his friends at the time didn’t have anything to do with theater.

The Glass Menagerie put on by the Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company (735 W. Sheridan Road) is what Wieland claims resparked his passions.

“It just blew my mind and it reminded me of everything I loved about theater in the first place,” he said.

When he realized that he was happiest working in theater, he made the decision to pursue it professionally, and plans to continue to audition for different productions in Chicago. Eventually, he hopes to move into commercial and television work, but above all, he sees himself staying in Chicago.

“I really love Chicago and, as an actor, you don’t really have that many options of where you can live,” he said. “I have family here and my friends are here and I love the theater that this city is producing and so for now, I’d like to see what role I can play in that.”

For Wieland, acting means putting yourself out there, allowing yourself to become vulnerable in service of the story you’re trying to tell and opening yourself up to criticism.

“One of the things I’m so proud of, coming from Loyola, is we don’t get as much name recognition as some of the other universities in town. … Actors that I know from Loyola are some of the best actors that I know. So I think that representing Loyola in the city of Chicago and trying to give Loyola a good name is something that I am very proud to do.”

Catch Wieland as he takes the West Stage at The Raven Theatre (6157 N. Clark St.). WIT runs May 11 through June 7. Tickets are $20 and are available here.

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