[Around Tappan Square]

Chaos On Stage

Theater and Math Students Find Common Ground In Arcadia

Tom Stoppard is better at explaining very complicated mathematical concepts than anyone," math professor Michael Henle told the students and faculty who gathered for the first of this year's math luncheons.

The noon-time discussions usually revolve around what Henle calls "math tidbits" presented by majors or faculty members. This time, however, they discussed morsels presented by Stoppard in his play Arcadia, which, under the direction of associate professor Jane Armitage, opened the theater department's fall offerings.

Theater students cast in four of the major roles performed two short scenes, giving the mathematicians a taste of the savory whole. Arcadia's cast of characters--two mathematicians and a mathematical prodigy among them--struggle to integrate reason and logic with the emotion and passion in their lives. Stoppard's deft use of chaos theory, fractal geometry, and other math concepts propels the action.

Henle find the interweaving of mathematical and human themes the most intriguing aspect of the play. An amateur actor who has, in years past, appeared in several community theater productions, he is no stranger to the stage--or to Stoppard. Last year he and emeritus English professor Dewey Ganzel escorted Oberlin-in-London students to a professional production of Arcadia.

Henle urged his luncheon group to attend the play more than once, not because the math is difficult--Stoppard's elegant prose makes it accessible--but to fully appreciate the playwright's intricate, nuanced, and uproariously funny style.


image above: The night of the show-Senior Cory Wallace (left) as Jellaby and junior Jessica F. Umphress as Lady Croom

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