First of all, I think it's hilarious that I have found myself playing a math genius onstage. During my school days, no other subject would send me into a frustrated rage quite like the dreaded math. Despite all of this, Proof is a play that I have deeply treasured since I discovered it way back in college, shortly after it opened on Broadway. In the years since, it has cropped up in some form or another (the best plays always do), and has become tied to great memory after great memory. This is quite appropriate seeing as memory is a major theme written into the play.
Now that I've actually been given the opportunity to work on the whole script firsthand, memory is one of the themes that resonates most with me. Throughout this whole process I've been moved to see how memory entwines itself so deeply with grief, and what a beautiful thing that can be.
Proof the play and Proof the production have been steeped in grief almost right from the beginning. When I was asked to play Robert last August, to step in for our fallen student, I didn't think I could do it and I said as much. It took all those months of bad times and not-so-bad times before I felt I was far enough along on the grief journey to take up this role. And then when we sat down for our first read through, something miraculous happened: I was flooded with memories that I hadn't even realized I had lost; memories of a group of students crashing in my living room for the evening to read through this very play; the laughter and the pranks and the good company that surrounded those students; spending a weekend watching the movie version over and over again with a group of dear friends who were closer than family; working on scenes from this play in grad school alongside a girl I had a massive crush on.
All of those memories are laced with tears, however. The students in my living room have almost all moved on. One is no longer with us. The friends I watched the movie with are now a whole continent away from me. The girl I worked on the scene with ended up marrying someone else and went in a completely different direction with her life.
The pessimist might ask me why I'm so grateful for these memories, then, when they seem to cause me heartache. But if there is one thing we all learn pretty quickly about life, it is that heartache will come, regardless of any good times attached. As a follower of Jesus, I have hope that one day all of that will be redeemed, but for now, for this life, those memories make the grief beautiful. With them, I can relive those moments in my head whenever I want. Yes, the tears will come because time, death, and circumstance have robbed me, have robbed all of us. But those memories are safe. Nothing can change the fact that good things HAPPENED, and that makes the bad times that much more toothless.
My favorite speech in the play is one that Catherine delivers toward the end. After all the shouting and tension and mystery and description of what life was like with her mentally ill father, now departed, she settles down and talks about what the good evenings with him were like. I think it is no accident that this moment surrounds the climax of the play, and I like to believe that remembering moments like that will bring peace to the grieving Catherine, just as they have brought great peace to me.