"Shakespeare in Love" Oscar nominee Tom Stoppard to explain his use of math in theater at upcoming UC Berkeley visit

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs

BERKELEY-- In an unusual convergence of art and science, Tom Stoppard, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of the hit movie "Shakespeare in Love" and well-known playwright, discusses his use of mathematics as a theatrical tool on Friday, Feb. 19, at the University of California, Berkeley.

Stoppard, who last month shared a Golden Globe Award for "Shakespeare in Love" with Marc Norman, will be on campus to talk about his 1993 play "Arcadia," a unique and intellectually challenging piece of theater that intertwines romantic drama with complex mathematical concepts.

Thermodynamics, chaos theory, Fermat's Last Theorem, fractals and iterated algorithms are just a few of the scientific theories explored by characters in the play. Stoppard's grasp of these concepts caught the attention of Robert Osserman, a researcher at the Berkeley-based Mathematical Sciences Research Institute.

"A colleague and I saw the 1995 ACT production of 'Arcadia' in San Francisco and were bowled over by the mathematical sophistication of the play," said Osserman. "We thought it would be great to produce a public event that gave people an opportunity to learn more about the math concepts presented in 'Arcadia' directly from Stoppard himself."

The event, which begins at 3 p.m. in Hertz Hall, features students from UC Berkeley's Center for Theater Arts, who will act out four excerpts of "Arcadia." Between each excerpt, Stoppard and Osserman will discuss the mathematical concepts presented. General admission for the event is $10 and $5 for UC Berkeley faculty, staff and students.

"I'm not sure how Stoppard gained his deep understanding of such complicated mathematical concepts, especially considering he didn't even go to college," said Osserman. "But I plan to find out during our conversation."

He expects the event to draw an interesting cross-section of theater lovers and math aficionados as well as school teachers, students and fans of the Czech-born and British-raised Stoppard.

"Arcadia" is the only play ever to be reviewed by Scientific American magazine, which lauded its realistic and sympathetic portrayal of scientists and the history of science. It is also the first play by a living, non-French person to be translated and performed by the Comédie Française, the official theater of the French government.

Over the last four decades, Stoppard has written numerous award-winning plays, short stories, radio plays and screenplays. Stoppard's career took off in the mid-1960s after writing the highly-acclaimed play "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead." He also wrote the screenplay for the 1985 movie "Brazil" and is the youngest playwright to have work performed at Laurence Olivier's Nation Theater in London.

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