For Matt Foss, assistant professor of theatre at the University of Toledo, the upcoming production of David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Proof” at the UT Center for Performing Arts comes at an extremely exciting time— not just for himself, but for the program as a whole.
The play is Foss’s directorial debut at UT, during his first full year as a member of the faculty, and given the production’s Chicago-area setting, “Proof” seems like a natural first effort for the artist who comes to UT with a wealth of Windy City career experience.
“I worked as a professional actor and continue to work as a director in Chicago. This is a play that I think is dynamic for the community we serve,” Foss said. “It’s an exciting play that is very beneficial to our student learners. It’s incredibly well-written. And the nice thing about it is, it takes place in a neighborhood that I believe reflects and supports the diversity of the students at the University of Toledo.”
Connect the dots
First performed in 2000, “Proof” is the dramatic tale of a young woman named Catherine who recently lost her father, a world-famous mathematician. Though the show follows the authorship of a mathematical proof found in the late professor’s office, the play as a whole deals with the larger questions of mental illness and the nature of genius.
Foss said one of his favorite things about the show is how it doesn’t spoon-feed its audience obvious and easy answers about the issues it discusses. “The great thing about plays, or at least good ones, is that they don’t necessarily fill in all the blanks. They give you very precise, well-constructed dots, and then in a very democratic way, good plays invite the audience to connect those dots the best they can.”
“I think that’s one of the reasons storytelling is so important. Commandments do one thing, but stories or parables preserve complexity.”
Using their imagination
That complexity extends to the nature of the illness that Catherine’s father (and perhaps Catherine) deals with in the course of the story. Foss explains that a story like this can inspire its audience to engage more deeply with the realities of an issue like mental illness on a more empathic level.
“In this story, we don’t necessarily know what Robert or Catherine may, or may not, be suffering from. And it’s not vague and it’s not enigmatic, it’s actually very specific about what’s happening. But in those blanks, an audience member may use their imagination.”
In a wider way, though, Foss said he’s thrilled about what this show means for the University of Toledo’s theatre program— as an example of what a new generation of talent can do, and as a reminder of what theatre means to the Glass City community.
“It is a young, exciting program right now, it is a young, exciting faculty. It’s kind of a growing time in the department,” Foss said.
“Many of these young theater-makers have probably done only a handful of plays. And to me, that’s exciting. They’re learning so much, and they’re so honest and free of pretense, because they don’t really have any old, bad habits to unlearn. And it’s really exciting, and earnest.”
7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays
alumni and seniors. $8/students.
Center for Performing Arts,1910 W. Rocket Dr.
419-530-2787 | utoledo.edu