BY EMILY INNES – STAFF WRITER
DramaCentre’s annual performance is one of the highlights of Centre’s Family Weekend, and this year David Auburn’s play, Proof, takes the spotlight.
Senior Sean Fannin is making his directing debut, a fact that has made the show all the more appealing to the actors. The opportunity to work with Fannin in a new context motivated sophomore Brennen Amonett to audition. “When I found out that Sean was directing the family weekend show, I knew I wanted to have the opportunity to work with him on his first big directing endeavor,” Amonett said. Junior Rachel Bischoff enjoys having a peer as a director because “his mind is like ours and we can work more closely with each other,” she said.
Proof centers around Catherine, a young woman who is dealing with the loss of her father, a world famous mathematician who had a mental decline in the last few years of his life. Catherine, portrayed by junior Sara Thesing, devotes her life to take care of him, and the play picks up right after his death. Rachel Bischoff plays Catherine’s older sister who comes home to take care of her. This is Bischoff’s fifth DramaCentre production, and she is thrilled at this first opportunity to be cast in the role of a strong young woman. She feels that she is better able to relate to the role of Claire than other roles in the past, and this personal connection is a rare opportunity for actors to come across. Bischoff is grateful and excited to have the chance to be playing “a strong realistic woman,” someone who is both relatable and admirable.
Something that makes this play particularly unique is its casting of Dr. John Wilson as the mathematician. Dr. Wilson was personally approached by Fannin for the role; Fannin was a student in Dr. Wilson’s Calculus II class when he was a first year. The offer was completely unexpected. “All I know is that I was asked to do it and I thought it was a joke,” Dr. Wilson said. While still surprised he is in it, Dr. Wilson has greatly enjoyed the rehearsal process and looks forward to finally performing for the public. The students are also excited to be joined by a professor on stage. Bischoff called working with him “a pure delight” because watching Dr. Wilson come to learn the ropes of theater reminds her of her first theater experience and why she loves it.
Dr. Wilson has especially appreciated the patience and support of the student actors, since he has very little theater experience. “The students have been so kind and so patient with me and really have not laughed at me too much. I don’t laugh at students when they mess up in my classes, and they have been kind to not laugh at me,” he said. Dr. Wilson’s participation in the play truly captures the essence of the value Centre places on relationships between professors and students. He adds that he believes he has been able to incorporate his own academic experience and turn it into a positive contribution to the development play. He is able to bring a mathematical insight that the other actors lack, allowing him to advise the portrayal of mathematicians and prompt serious thinking about issues in the mathematical world that the play explores which continue to be relevant in modern society.
The cast hopes Proof will make the audience feel a little vulnerable. Amonett calls it a “beautiful journey that forces you to looking your own understanding of issues like grief and mental illness, and explore how that relates to your own deep and personal relationships and capabilities you may not even know you possess.” Bischoff appreciates the emphasis it places on the various ways the grieving process occurs and how that is a part of our lives. She also hopes the play can help fight the stigma against mental illness. The production reveals “an inside look on what that’s like and what that can do to a person as well as the people around them,” she said. Bischoff hopes the audience recognizes the depth of the play and can appreciate the effort it makes to bring such difficult situations to the forefront of conversation.
The play will run Wednesday September 21 through Friday September 23 at 8 p.m. and Saturday September 24 at 5 p.m. in Weisiger Theater. The performances will be a convocation credit.