Senior Theatre Showcase Triumphs, Even Amid COVID Surge

 Photo Courtesy of Pierce Bounds ’71

Photo Courtesy of Pierce Bounds ’71

Even as Dickinson recorded its highest number of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and President Jones announced a week of virtual classes, the Department of Theatre and Dance highlighted seniors Elisabeth Warren (Director, Costume designer), Ayana Rahman (Catherine, Sound Designer, Dramaturg) and Brendan Carr (Hal, Sound Designer, Dramaturg) in Proof, the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning play about a young mathematician and her father.

Warren said of the production, “There are so many different relatable aspects that I have begun to hold very dear to my heart.” 

On the Friday that the show opened, the president’s office announced Dickinson’s most stringent COVID-related restrictions since the fall semester, moving all classes online and limiting large events to 25 people. Warren and her cast and crew quickly pivoted, spacing out the seating in the Cubiculo and going ahead with the production as planned.

The somber mood on campus certainly did not dim the performance, as Rahman, Carr, Elizabeth Price ’22, and Kellen Hansen ’25 put together a stellar show that captured themes as varied as grief, family, love, and of course, mathematics. Rahman and Hansen were particularly moving as a brilliant, albeit depressed, mathematician and her aging father. 

In the weeks leading up to opening night, the production ran remarkably smoothly, says Warren. Despite this being her first time directing a play at Dickinson, after the pandemic cut into both her introductory and advanced directing classes, she was a little nervous about the experience. But, as soon as rehearsals started in January, “it was pretty much smooth sailing.” 

Carr adds that this production was his first live, in-person performance in over two years. He had performed virtually during the pandemic, but “it just wasn’t the same as the real thing.” He says that the whole experience left him feeling “grateful and fulfilled and happy…and exhausted!”

Outside of the return to live theatre, Warren says the original speed bump was choosing a play in the first place. “There were tears. There was frustration, there was anger. It wasn’t pretty.” She says that the group of three seniors all came at the decision-making process from the context of their own interests. Warren studies Environmental Science, while Carr has taken on Environmental Studies and Rahman Physics, in addition to their majors in Theatre Arts. In the end, Proof checked all their boxes. Originally suggested by Rahman, Warren says “it was the only one that stuck around.”

And it will continue to stick around in the minds of the audience members who saw it that weekend. From emotionally charged performances to a set that incorporated mathematical concepts in its very form, Proof was a much-needed win for the Dickinson community at a time where optimism was hard to come by. Warren says the mindset of “semper gumby,” which she defines as “always be flexible,” was essential to their success. That phrase might just be the college’s motto this year.

Photo Courtesy of Pierce Bounds ’71