Partition – A Play About Math?

Ramanujan: Billington, let me explain. One plus two equals three.

Billington: I know that.

Ramanujan: And one plus one plus one equals three. And three plus zero equals three.

Billington: Don’t look at me with such concern. I’m not a donkey.

Ramanujan: That gives us three different ways to add up integers to equal three. These are partitions. The number of partitions of the number three is…three.

Billington: I’m ready for the climax.

math-chalkboardThe topic of math is impossible to avoid in the rehearsal room. However, for those with severe allergic reactions to numbers and algebraic symbols, please don’t run away. Shunya’s latest production Partition isn’t all math. It’s actually about you.

Maybe you don’t work with numbers on a daily basis, but you definitely work with partitions. How many ways can you partition a group of friends or co-workers or students or sports teams or foods or movies or songs or whatever? There may not be a formula for this, but it’s something we seem to do automatically and systematically. It’s a continual process of differentiation and separation.

This process is necessary to establish identity. I am Sara, and you are not. I am from Neptune, and you are from Earth. And so on.

Although we are constantly drawing lines, we are also simultaneously forming threads of connection between different people and ideas. These connections are also needed to establish identity. I belong to a family of nuts. This innermost circle establishes my identity in many ways.

At its core, Partition is a play about characters (dead and living, divine and mundane, brilliant and broken) who just like us are struggling to draw lines and circles on a stage.

Over the past few weeks, as a cast and crew, we have experienced the partitions that divide us: ethnicity, age, religion, occupation, etc. But we are bounded by something more than a script now. We are bending the lines and turning them into newly fashioned loops. We hope you will join us in August and bring your own numbers, words, and colors to our stage.

Step Inside, Scene 2

Ever since reading Ira Hauptman’s “Partition”, I knew that one day I wanted to be a member of the team that would bring this beautiful play to life in Houston. Some eight years later, here we are!

Over the past few weeks, many people have approached me with the following question: So what is this play about anyway?

A directing teacher once told me that the first rule in approaching a well-written script is to admit that it’s beyond you – that you probably don’t know what it’s about. There are questions you will begin to ask, and there are discoveries you will make together with the cast, but don’t expect to find explicit answers by the end of the rehearsal process or by the end of this lifetime.

I could tell you the play is about Ramanujan, one of the most famous and mysterious mathematicians India (perhaps the world) has ever produced. I could say it’s a play dripping in numbers and covered in words. I could say there’s a sexy Indian goddess who has all the right answers and an obsessively insane and neurotic French mathematician. I could say it’s a colorful mosaic of cultural tapestries and enigmatic patterns. I could tell you it’s about the bizarre, creative, and destructive tension that exists between East and West, between Faith and Reason. Or I could come back to what every play and every day seem to really be about – friendship and love.

The articulation of these themes is not particularly useful as we prepare to enter the rehearsal room. They don’t move us anywhere. So I offer three questions:

1. How do you know what you know?

2. What separates you from me?

3. What’s your favorite number?

Theatre is one of the only art forms that changes, moves, and breathes with the audience. It’s an incredible dialogue. And if the stars align, it can be breathtaking. We look forward to our upcoming rehearsal process, but even more, we look forward to meeting you and diving into an infinite series of questions.

Come meet the cast, step on stage yourself, and enjoy some food and drinks with the Shunya team at Avant Garden this Saturday, May 4th at 7 PM!

Truly, madly, deeply…