The Meaning of PROOF: Using a Play about Math to Blend Cultures of Performance & Inquiry
Project Leader: Mike Wakeford
Project Description: This project will sponsor ARTStem-dedicated performance(s) of a UNCSA-student-directed production of David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play, Proof (2001). The primary audiences for these shows will be high school math students at both UNCSA and Reynolds High School, as well as students in selected liberal studies classes at UNCSA. Proof centers around a recently-deceased mathematician and his daughter. The action pivots on the posthumous discovery, in the father’s notebooks, of an important and potentially field-changing mathematical proof. Ultimately, it is unclear whether the proof was his work, or the daughter’s.
Hence, among the themes interrogated by the play is the meaning of “proof” itself. What are the different standards of “proof” that humans use to navigate the world? Regarding mathematical truth? Regarding a claim of authorship or intellectual property? The experience of the play will be supplemented with preparatory work each collaborating instructor does in order to make the performance enhance the learning goals within their respective courses, as well as through pre- and post-performance discussions involving the students, the play’s director, and participating faculty. At a meta-level, the project will be challenging the perceived divide between work in the arts, humanities, and STEM-disciplines.
Collaborators: Drew Perrin (directing student, UNCSA, School of Drama); Angell Caudill (Arts Magnet Director, RJ Reynolds High School); Allison George (Math faculty, RJ Reynolds High School); Camie Bell (Math faculty, RJ Reynolds High School); Jill Lane (Dean of High School Academic Program and Math faculty, UNCSA); Wanda Coyle (Math faculty, UNCSA); Sarah Greer (Math faculty, UNCSA).