Proof about questions as much as answers

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The Augustana theatre department searches for a different kind of proof during next week’s season debut.

David Auburn’s Pulitzer-winning Proof focuses on the lives of Robert, a famous mathematician who struggles with mental illness, his two daughters, Catherine and Claire (senior Elizabeth Yackel-Juleen), and student/mentee, Hal.

“At its core, Proof is a mystery,” director Jayna Fitzsimmons said. “It centers around the question of authorship, of who wrote this brilliant mathematical proof.”

Proof also puts the structure and inner workings of a family under the microscope, junior Claire Avery (Catherine) said.

But the play goes much further. According to costume designer and junior Emily Fitterer the script causes readers to ask themselves where their own truth lies.

“The script itself never answers the question,” Fitterer said.

To that mystery, Proof adds novelty, part of which is achieved by one of the smallest casts in Augustana theater history of only four people. In addition, the cast itself is nontraditional. Joining the ranks is religion professor Richard Swanson.

“It’s not only a student production anymore,” Fitterer said.

Swanson did not audition, Fitzsimmons said. Fitzsimmons worked with him previously during Swanson’s own play, The Book of Job, performed in the chapel last year, and saw “his excellent theatrical instincts.”

“We approached him and offered him the role because I felt it was important to have that generational gap,” she said.

Compounding upon these innovations will be a new type of stage setup.

“The Augie stage has different nooks and crannies that other stages do not have,” Fitterer said.

For Proof, the set will play with distance – the stage will be moved up much closer than usual, closing the gap between performers to audience.

According to Fitterer, many of these nontraditional unconventional decisions can take place because of how modern the play is, said Fitterer.

Moreover, Proof is “entirely student-designed on the main stage, so we have a lot of student designers who have been working very hard on the look of the show,” Fitzsimmons said. This includes Fitterer, who people-watches for costume ideas.

“I love the script,” said senior Matthew Stoffel, who plays Hal. “It has real characters with fascinating relations with each other. The show is realistic, with real-life conversations.”

After first encountering it 10-11 years ago, Fitzsimmons is now seeing the show come to life on the stage.

Proof was cast and the production team was set last spring, but Fitterer said the team has only been working on it for about four weeks.

“It’s a show I’ve wanted to do for a really long time,” Fitzsimmons said. “If you like any sort of contemporary family drama, Proof is a good show to see.”

Proof runs in the Edith Mortenson Center Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 24 through Saturday, September 27 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, September