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2009 Theater Night

The goal of this event is to provide a spirited, engaging evening of theater that should be as rewarding to the audience as it is to the conference participants who volunteer as actors. The intersection between mathematics and theater has grown substantially in recent years, enough to become an area for scholarly research, but the thrust of this event will be to largely let the plays speak for themselves in as authentic a form as we can manage given the short rehearsal time.

Who can participate?

All are welcome and we will do our best to incorporate as many interested people as we can. If we get too many volunteers, we will obviously have to impose some limits. Previous acting experience would be a valuable asset but it is in no way a requirement for potential readers. If you are interested in performing, get in touch with Steve ( and we will provide you with more details.

How will this work?

Cheryl and I will select a variety of scenes from different scripts and attempt to cast these with the names that come in. Depending on the level of interest, we may make some changes as we go, but the goal is to have material that, with some minimal commentary, will result in a 60 to 75 minute production. Cast members will get scripts ahead of time and we'll arrange for a few rehearsals during the conference. No one will be expected to be "off book" but we will try to incorporate some minimal props and blocking.

What kind of plays will we do?

There are really all sorts. The success of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia in the early 90s shattered the conception that mathematics represented an off-limits part of the intellectual spectrum for playwrights interested in writing for a popular audience. Since Arcadia, a host of successful plays have emerged that deal with mathematics and mathematicians in thoughtful and creative ways. Some of the most well-known examples are Proof by David Auburn (2000 Pulitzer Prize) and Copenhagen by Michael Frayn (2001 Tony Award for Best Play). Beyond these highly celebrated scripts, one can find a rich array of plays that are perhaps even more authentically mathematical. Set at a fictional mathematics conference on the bitter English coastline in the winter of 1911, The Five Hysterical Girls Theorem, by Rinne Groff is a dark comedy about love, genius, aging and priority. In Lovesong of the Electric Bear, Snoo Wilson offers a fanciful, post-modern portrait of the tragic life of Alan Turing. More recently, A Disappearing Number won the 2008 Olivier Award for Best Play for its dramatization of the relationship between Hardy and Ramanujan. The list goes on and one goal of the evening will be to provide a sense of just how wide the spectrum is.

Who are the organizers?

Steve Abbott (mathematics) and Cheryl Faraone (theatre) are both professors at Middlebury College. For the past six years we have been collaborating on an ever-evolving course, most recently titled "Mathematics and Science as Art in Contemporary Theater". This teaching project has been extremely rewarding and has extended beyond the classroom for each of us in different ways. Steve has written regularly about happenings in theater and mathematics for various MAA publications over the years and continues to do research and write in this area. Cheryl has directed a number of mathematically themed plays, both at Middlebury and as part of the Potomac Theatre Project based in New York City, and is currently researching, in London and Washington, new plays and performance forms that link theatre with mathematics and science.

To get in touch:

Steve Abbott
Department of Mathematics
Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, 05753
802 443-2256

Cheryl Faraone
Department of Theatre
Middlebury College, Middlebury VT, 05753
802 443-5642