When it comes to mathematics, some students see the subject as more of a prerequisite than something fun and exciting. Be it the supposed difficulty of the subject matter itself, or having to learn the difference between terms like sine and cosine, math is often looked upon as something of a chore, nothing more.
However, one theatre production is hoping to change all that by using comedy and music to break down the intricacies of math and help audiences gain a better understanding of the subject. That show is called Math Out Loud.
Written and directed by Vancouver actor and playwright Mackenzie Gray, the show is part of an outreach program of Mitacs, an organization dedicated to supporting the Canadian economy.
"Originally it was going to tour a few schools out of a van with a small crew of four," said Gray of the show's humble beginnings. "But then Dale, our executive producer, asked what I'd do if we could make it bigger and I suggested a bigger cast, make it multi-media and a bigger show."
The result is a high-quality production featuring a cast of eight seasoned actors taking audiences on a mathematical adventure, which takes place in the dream sequence of two of the characters.
The sequence, said Gray, allowed him to do almost anything he wanted in terms of characters and settings, making it easier to keep the focus on math as the characters travelled through space and time.
The result? Encounters with such historical figures as Cleopatra, M.C. Escher and Christopher Columbus, all done in a comedic and musical fashion. There's even a mathematical rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter."
"The hard thing is not making it a lecture," explained Gray. "We wanted to have real math in the play, but we never wanted it to be a lecture or a classroom. So with this, kids get a double whammy - they get to learn a bit of math but they also get a good theatre show."
For two of the show's actors, Paige McCulloch and Emma Rendell, Math Out Loud was an opportunity to do something unlike any production they've done before.
"I'd never done anything with math since high school, so it was awesome to see how we could turn it into something actually enjoyable and fun," said McCulloch, who plays a math-savvy Valley Girl named Trig, in addition to other roles.
For Rendell, who, as Digit, plays partner to McCulloch's Trig, the lines in particular were something that took some getting used to, as there were a lot of mathematical terms and equations involved with basic dialogue.
"At first I was a little uncertain as it was a show about math, but I said yes, and it's been a lot of fun," she said. "Using the scenarios, like a game show or a river, you can see how the math works and it makes sense a lot faster than a textbook."
Math Out Loud, which was staged for local school students this week, will be staged for the general public at Surrey Arts Centre this weekend, Oct. 27 and 28.
Both shows are at 2 p.m. and tickets ($15, or free for kids and students under 16) are available at www. mathoutloud.ca and at the theatre. For more info, call 604-501-5566.
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