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You do the math 

SCAD presents Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof

A drama about mathematical geniuses that unfolds like a gripping mystery novel -- Proof is that and more.

It will run Nov. 1-4 at Mondanaro Theater. “It’s a wonderful play that won the Pulitzer Prize several years ago,” says Savannah College of Art and Design theater professor Sharon Ott, who is directing the production. Written by David Auburn, Proof tells the story of a woman named Catherine who is struggling to overcome the death of her mathematical genius father, Robert. “There are a lot of similarities between him and Richard Nash of A Brilliant Mind,” Ott says.

“He’s a brilliant mathematician, but he’s also crazy,” she says. “His daughter is also a brilliant mathematician, but she winds up being her father’s caretaker.”

There’s also a sister named Claire, who has left Chicago. When the play opens, Robert has died and Catherine is trying to come out from under her father’s influence and into her own.

A graduate student named Hal discovers a brilliant mathematical proof that is ostensibly a work of Robert’s. Catherine claims she wrote it, but can she prove it? “Did Catherine write a proof that was even more brilliant than anything done by her father?” Ott asks.

Ott produced the play at the Seattle Repertory Theater, where she was artistic director. The play proved to be especially popular with audience members who were in their 20s.

That’s one of the reasons Ott wanted to bring Proof to SCAD. “There are three characters in it who are in their 20s or early 30s,” she says. “That’s wonderful when you’ve got student actors.”

There are four characters, played by SCAD students. Senior Kerra Holtgren is Catherine, and graduate students Elizabeth Talbot, Richard Mooney and Richie Cook play Claire, Robert and Hal.

The play is somewhat challenging for student actors, Ott says. “First of all, because there are just four characters, there are a lot of lines the actors have to learn,” she says. “Even the older actor who plays the father is a full-time student.”

The effort requires lots of time, something students don’t usually have. “We have three to four hours a night to rehearse, and they’re taking classes during the day,” Ott says. “And the play is emotionally demanding.

“But I’m trying to prepare them for the future,” she says. “I keep telling them, ‘This is a grown-up play.’”

Getting used to the rehearsal schedule in a university setting also has been demanding for Ott. “But I have actors who are devoted to this project,” she says.

“Part of my job as a professor is training students about the standards required for professional theater and helping them to attain those standards,” Ott says. “I see them look at the hurdles and then jump.”

Since earning that Pulitzer in 2001, Proof has become one of the most produced plays in the country, Ott says. “It hooks you like a mystery novel,” she says. “It has a really compelling story line and characters who are very interesting.”

A mathematics advisor had to be brought in for three sessions with the cast to help them understand the complex mathematical issues in the play. “It’s a serious play, but it does have wonderfully comedic moments,” Ott says. “It had a very successful run on Broadway and a successful tour. I’m happy to bring it to Savannah.”

The Savannah College of Art and Design School of Performing Arts will present Proof Nov. 1, 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. at Mondanaro Theater, 217 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Tickets are $10 for the general public, $5 for students and seniors and free with a valid SCAD ID and can be purchased at the SCAD box office at 216 E. Broughton St., online at www.scadboxoffice.com or by phone at 525-5050.

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Linda Sickler

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