Arts at MIT: Recovering Mathematician’s Play, Photos by Lori Nix, and More

by Amy Marcott on September 22, 2010 · 0 comments

in Alumni Life, Arts

Gioia De Cari SM ’88 in Truth Values. Credit: Central Square Theater

“Recovering Mathematician” Brings Autobiographical Play Back to Cambridge

For more than a decade, self-proclaimed “recovering mathematician” Gioia De Cari SM ’88 has been making a living in theater–she acts, writes plays, truly loves the medium, and audiences seem to love her. But there’s one issue in particular, she says, that audiences can’t seem to get enough of: her background in math.

Background is even too light a word, because De Cari was completely entrenched. She was a top honors student as an undergrad at Berkeley and ran the math club when she was there. Then she came to MIT in the late 1980s, and things changed.

Truth Values, subtitled “One Girl’s Romp Through MIT’s Male Math Maze,” chronicles that change. In an interview with Under the Microscope, a writing project produced by The Feminist Press, De Cari said:

“I felt so alien. It seemed that the women that I observed – the other graduate students – coped by disappearing. They would wear, like, big plaid shirts and jeans, and sort of hide among and look just like the men. And I just couldn’t do that. There were so many things that happened, including being asked to serve cookies at a seminar, that made me so upset that I started dressing in outrageous clothing as a way of protesting it, sort of unconsciously. I guess something snapped, is what I say in my play. I just started wearing the most outrageous things when I served these cookies. And [the clothes] were very feminine … and that really made me into an alien if I wasn’t already one.”

She says the play is the only way she has been able to come to terms with her time at MIT and her feelings about math (she says she never wants to open another math book for as long as she lives, and it seems more than a little surprising that she comes so close to campus). At a discussion held by the MIT Libraries on Monday, De Cari acknowledged the irony of her situation.

“I found it cold when I was here, cold weather, cold people. That’s what my play is all about. But it feels different now,” said De Cari. “The whole math department came to one of my shows, and the chair even brought me a gift. I think things have changed.”

Truth Values runs through September 26 at the Central Square Theater. It is the second season De Cari has performed the show in Cambridge.

Other arts events to catch *before* the end of September:

Lori Nix Photographic Exhibit
This event occurs on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday through September 30, 2010.
Large scale vivid color photographs by Lori Nix of small dioramas, showing detailed worlds blown up into big worlds.

Cutting Class: Collages by Leah Brunetto ’12
This event occurs daily through September 30, 2010.
(Closing reception: Sept 30, 5pm.)

The works in this exhibition use real academic materials as a medium. This concept was developed by the artist in the process of clearing out her room after her second set of final exams. After coming across her old problem sets, she was reluctant to throw them away in the whirlwind of moving out for the summer, thinking of the energy that went into finishing them over the course of her first year at MIT. This collection of papers, combined with outside problem sets donated to the project, became a starting point for investigating new places and ideas.
Gallery is open 24 hours/day.

Making Architecture
This event occurs daily through October 06, 2010.
In concert with the opening of SA+P’s new Media Lab Complex, designed by Fumihiko Maki, an exhibit on the process of conceiving, designing and realizing the building is on display in the building’s lobby gallery at the corner of Ames and Amherst streets on the Cambridge campus. Featuring sketches, drawings, renderings, photos, construction documents and a model, along with smaller displays detailing six other current works by Maki, Making Architecture is on exhibit through October 6.

Sustainable Neighborhoods Through Inclusiveness, Community & Environment Case Study: Shenzhen, China

This event occurs on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday through October 01, 2010.
Since 2005, Vanke Corporation has sponsored research seminars, studios, and workshops at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the topic of sustainable residential development. This exhibit synthesizes the four years of ideas, discussion, drawings, and writings produced by the students involved. The issues explored were: resource efficiency, the natural environment, community facilities and mobility.

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