For the lead role [in "Wit," a play about living with -and dying from- cancer] of Vivian Bearing, a 50-year-old university professor who is diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic ovarian cancer, Janina Birtolo underwent the most dramatic physical transformation the long-time community actress has ever made for a role.
Not the least of the changes: Cutting hair that’s been same below-the-shoulder length for more than a decade. The actress chopped it into a shaggy pixie cut expressly for this role, since the bald cap was too time-consuming to put on every night.
"It’s been exhausting," says Birtolo minutes before one of the last rehearsals in the Tobye Studio, the intimate 100-seat space at the Sugden used for more avant-garde performances.
"I haven’t been good about doing the rest of my work. I’m so drained after putting out emotions in the show," says the freelance writer, who, since 2001, has also performed regular one-woman shows — as many as three times a week in season — throughout the county.
Read the whole article: Facing the end: Local actress takes difficult character through cancer and into clarity in Naples Players’ "Wit"