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2011 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 main thrust of this event will be to create an evening’s entertainment consistent with the mathematics/art theme of Bridges.

Who can participate?

All are welcome and we will do our best to incorporate as many interested people as we can. 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 he will provide you with more details.

What kind of play will we do?

The first Bridges Theater Night was held in 2009. The model for that evening was a program of short scenes selected from a wide array of contemporary mathematical plays. In 2010, the Dr. Schaffer and Mr. Stern Dance Ensemble performed a mathematically inspired piece entitled "The Secret Life of Squares." This year the focus returns to dramatic theater. The plan is to focus on a single play – perhaps slightly abridged – and present it in the form of a staged reading. The final choice for the play has not been made, and the decision will partially depend on the collection of people who volunteer to read. For this reason, it would be beneficial to hear from interested actors ahead of time, although there is sure to be some on-site recruiting as well.

What kinds of math plays are out there?

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 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. The 2009 Theater Night included scenes from The Five Hysterical Girls Theorem by Rinne Groff, Lovesong of the Electric Bear by Snoo Wilson, and A Disappearing Number by a London based company called Complicite which won the 2008 Olivier Award for Best Play.

Who is the organizer?

Steve Abbott is a professor of mathematics at Middlebury College. For the past eight years he has been collaborating with a colleague in the theater department on an ever-evolving course, most recently titled "Mathematics and Science as Art in Contemporary Theater". Steve writes regularly about happenings in theater and mathematics, especially in Math Horizons where he is currently serving as coeditor (with fellow 2011 Bridges attendee Bruce Torrence) For the 2010 2011 academic year, Steve is on sabbatical in Cambridge, England looking further into the intersections between theater and mathematics.