Ripon College presents ‘Proof,’ a contemporary play of ideas

“Proof,” by David Auburn, which has been described as “a smart and compassionate play of ideas,” will be presented Oct. 1-4 at Ripon College. Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Benstead Theatre, C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts, on the campus. Tickets are free, but reservations are recommended by calling 920-748-8791; or emailing [email protected]

The play was the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for best play. It concerns Catherine, a young woman who had dropped out of college to care for ailing father and now has to cope with the aftermath of his death.

He was a mathematician of genius proportions but also was troubled in his later years with only a tentative grasp on reality. Over a very long weekend, Catherine comes to terms with his death, her own intellectual and psychological inheritance from him, her estranged sister who appears on the scene to “help” and a suddenly burgeoning romance with one of her father’s former graduate students.

The New York Daily News praised the play saying it “ … combines elements of mystery and surprise with old-fashioned storytelling to provide a compelling evening of theatre.”

The cast includes Sophie Widman ’18 of Boulder Creek, California, as Catherine; Tekoa Wittman ’18 of Little Chute, Wisconsin, as Hal, a math geek interested in Cathy; Allison Macknick ’17 of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, as Cathy’s sister Claire; and Michael Baumhardt ’18 of Richfield, Wisconsin, as Robert, Cathy and Claire’s father, Robert. Understudy for the males is Connor Cummiskey ’16 of Hamburg, Minnesota; and understudy for the females is Elizabeth Watts ’18 of Oconto, Wisconsin.

The play is directed Robert Amsden, professor of theatre, chair of the department, and the Doreen L. ’73 and David I. Chemerow Chair in Theatre. Design and technical direction in scenery and lighting is by John Dalziel, assistant professor of theatre; and in costuming by Susan McDaniel Hill, visiting professor of theatre. Anders Goodwin ’15, a theatre and psychology major, is the stage manager.

Other members of the crew are: Suzie Shively ’17 of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and Dakota Winn ’18 of Hillsboro, Missouri, assistant stage managers; JaneMarie Erickson ’16 of Redgranite, Wisconsin, light board operator; Enya Nett ’16 of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, sound board operator; and the scenery and lighting crew: Cummiskey; Goodwin; Nett; Winn; Rick Garcia ’17 of North Hollywood, California; Brennan Kane ’17 of Ramsey, Minnesota; Grant Myers ’17 of Williams Bay, Wisconsin; and Stephen Umhoefer ’15 of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“I was interested in this play when it first came out, but it was not possible then to present a play with such a small cast since we were doing only two shows per year,” Amsden says. “With our new three main-stage shows season, we can explore the joys of working intensely with a few young actors on great contemporary scripts like this one.”

Catherine’s dilemma seems like a real-life one as she tries to figure out who she is in the shadow of her father’s death and his mental illness, Amsden says. Claire is her opposite: professional and organized with a stable middle-class life. The two clash over Cathy’s future after their father’s funeral.

Amsden adds, “This is a strongly written play with excellent dramatic structure and high conflict on the domestic level. It provides a great opportunity for young actors to work on their craft and will be a fun show to see. There is wit, love, genius, betrayal and familiar family conflicts that provide an engaging evening in the theatre.”

Offering insight into the character of Robert, the Ripon College Math Club will celebrate mathematic s and theatre in short pre-show presentations at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3 and 4. Students will address such questions as: How did mathematicians use crowdsourcing to solve a centuries-old math problem? What female mathematician corresponded with mathematical legends Lagrange, Legendre and Gauss at a time when women were not thought capable of mathematical thought? Why is there no Nobel Prize for mathematics? Do mathematics and theatre have a non-trivial intersection?

Related posters will be staffed before each performance and during intermission.

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