Trust or Proof: New from RC theatre

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Tracey Vineyard
Guest Writer

In the upcoming show Proof, written by David Auburn and directed by Dr. Parker, I play Catherine, who goes through quite a lot during the story. In a small family dynamic she has to deal with loss, her controlling sister, and a young man coming in the house to look through her father's mathematical papers. She has some extreme highs where everything goes right, and extreme lows where everything goes wrong. From bouts of mourning to depression to intense anger, she's an extreme character, and I've learned a lot through her.

Just like Catherine I grew up with a mathematician for a father. Unlike me, though, Catherine has a passion for math that I personally did not inherit. However, Catherine does find herself encouraged by the historical mathematician, Sophie Germain, and I was able to find a great deal of personal inspiration through learning more about this incredible woman. She was a French philosopher, physicist, and mathematician during the 1700s. The mathematical principle of Germain Primes is named after her. She was the first woman to receive a prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences. Despite this, she was always so afraid that the prejudices against women in her time would hold her back. Unfortunately, she was right. She was never allowed to go to school or pursue a career in mathematics. Simeon Poisson, a “friend” who worked with her on her theory of elasticity, published the work without mentioning her or giving her the credit due. Despite this she was supported by her mentor Adrien-Marie Legendre, who stood by her from her first number theory to the end; and by her friend Carl Friedrich Gauss, who insisted that she get an honorary degree despite lying to them about her gender.

Though this is a show that deals largely with math, I do think it's important to note that math is only one way to understand the core themes of the show. Not being a fan of math won't stop anyone from understanding and enjoying the show; instead, this knowledge will only add to it. It's beautiful that math is used to get to the relationships between characters and connect stories of love and life and loss. Math is also used to help show the mental state of some of the characters – after all, madness and brilliance have a tendency to be linked. Catherine could be crazy. Her father could be. Her sister could be. Who knows?

One thing that is certain in this show, and that I personally love the most, is the relationship between trust and proof. Catherine expects trust to go with love, but sometimes people need the proof. To be honest, that's a question for you to answer. Should you trust the person or the evidence? I suppose we'll find out in Rochester College’s rendition of Proof.