T102 | Science, Sex, and the Secrets of the Universe: Three Prize-Winning Plays 


1:30 pm - 3:00 pm

Hybrid - Online and

In-person at

Berkshire Community College

1350 West Street

Pittsfield, MA 01201

Room H-402

6/7, 6/14, 6/21 & 6/28

Four Sessions 

Please note that all in-person attendees are required to be masked at all times and provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19, or a negative test within the past 48-72 hours.

Math! Science! Drama!  We’ll read and discuss three justly renowned plays--Arcadia, Copenhagen, and Proof—featuring real or imaginary geniuses of math and science whose clarity of insight belies the murky, conflicted lives these luminaries lived.  The discussion will be led by Theatre Teacher/Director/Critic Barbara Waldinger and Mathematical Scientist Phil Pechukas.

Course Reading:

Please read Act 1 of Arcadia before the June 7 session and Act 2 before June 14.

Aracadia, Tom Stoppard.  [Faber & Faber, 1993].In a large country house in 1809 sits Lady Thomasina Coverly, aged thirteen, and her tutor. Through the window may be seen the idealized landscape about to give way to the 'picturesque' Gothic style: "everything but vampires," as the garden historian Hannah Jarvis remarks in the same room 180 years later.  Stoppard's absorbing play takes us back and forth between the centuries and explores the nature of truth and time, the Classical and Romantic temperament, and the disruptive influence of sex on our orbits in life.

Please read Copenhagen before the June 21 session.

Copenhagen, Michael Frayn.  [Anchor, 2000].

In 1941 the German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a clandestine trip to Copenhagen to see his Danish counterpart and friend Niels Bohr. Their work together on quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle had revolutionized atomic physics. But now the world had changed and the two men were on opposite sides in a world war. Why Heisenberg went to Copenhagen and what he wanted to say to Bohr has vexed historians ever since.

Please read Proof before the June 28 session.

Proof, David Auburn. [Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001].

Proof explores the unknowability of love as much as it does the mysteries of science.  It focuses on Catherine, a young woman who has spent years caring for her father, Robert, a brilliant mathematician. His death has brought into her midst her sister, Claire, and Hal, a former student who hopes to find some hint of Robert's genius among his incoherent scribblings. The passion that Hal feels for math both moves and angers Catherine, who is torn between missing her father and resenting the great sacrifices she made for him.

Philip Pechukas is a Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, and holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Chemical Physics from the University of  Chicago.  His work has been published in over 70 research papers in professional journals, including Physical Review, Journal of Chemical Physics, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Barbara Waldinger holds a Ph.D. in Theatre from City University of New York Graduate Center; taught at Queens College, Hofstra University and Marymount Manhattan; and since 2000 has served as the Artistic Director of HRC Showcase Theatre in Columbia County, NY. She is also a theatre critic and member of the Berkshire Theatre Critics' Association, co-founder of OLLI's Performing Arts Initiative and co-leader of OLLI's Playreading SIG.  

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