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Musical Play Toys with Rhythm, Order, Pattern, Sound

Delicious Rivers, a musical play originally produced by Talking Band, a New York theatre company, will receive its New England premiere at Smith College this weekend.

The play, which will open Friday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m., was written and composed by OBIE Award-winner Ellen Maddow in collaboration with Marjorie Senechal, the Louise Wolff Kahn Professor in Mathematics and History of Science and Technology at Smith.
The production, directed by Paul Zimet, professor of theatre at Smith and also a multiple winner of the OBIE, will continue Oct. 28 at 8 p.m., Oct. 29 at 2 p.m., and Nov. 1-4 at 8 p.m. in the Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre, Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts.

The production of Delicious Rivers is in conjunction with “Mathematics, the Arts and Other Surprising Connections: A Festival of Discovery,” Oct. 26-28, a series of lectures and workshops honoring Senechal’s retirement, following this academic year, after 41 years at Smith.

Set in a New York City post office, Delicious Rivers follows the lives of four postal workers and three neighborhood apartment dwellers as their lives intertwine. Through a variety of surprising twists and turns, it explores the areas in which the interests of theatre and mathematics intersect: the pleasures of deductive reasoning; the solution of a mystery; the links between order and the unexpected; and the delight in discovering patterns of meaning in everyday life.

Senechal’s research on the mathematical discoveries of Robert Ammann, a postal worker with an unusual mathematical mind, imbues the work. He appears as a character in the play, which follows the ebb and flow of a diverse community of people in an urban environment whose lives rub up against each other producing unexpected revelations, mysterious cul de sacs, and events that erupt out of nowhere and repeat at unexpected moments in different places and with different combinations of people.

Maddow’s music book follows the mathematical structure of “non-periodic tilings”—familiar patterns that crop up in novel ways and in unexpected places. Three live musicians (bass voice, bass trombone, and string bass) appear standing on line with the apartment dwellers at the post office, and together they weave two parallel sound worlds: the light staccato quality of human conversation and the deep contrapuntal harmonies of the three instruments.

The Talking Band held a reading of the play in August 2005 at Canada’s Banff Centre during the Bridges Conference, an annual international event exploring the mathematical connections between art, music, and science.

Delicious Rivers received its world premiere at New York’s La MaMa Club Theatre that year under the same award-winning creative team that staged Painted Snake in a Painted Chair in 2003.

Tickets for Delicious Rivers are $7, general, $5 for students/seniors. Call 585-ARTS.

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