Later this evening, after our strike, the cast and crew will come over to our place to celebrate. In the meantime, I thought I would share a response to the play by my friend Ziyian Kwan. I have enjoyed writing about Ziyian's work in this space over the years and it is a treat for me to receive her sensitive response to my own creative efforts.
Rodney and I attended Long Division last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I thought it would be a fun exercise to do as you do and write about the experience the morning after. And to limit the writing to within 500 words, in a tone inspired by yours. Herewith:
On the day I saw Long Division, playwright Peter Dickinson’s partner Richard visited my husband’s bookshop, The Paperhound, to purchase a precious pamphlet. Later that evening, upon arriving at the Annex Theatre, I ran into David Kaye, an actor I haven’t seen for years, who lives in my building of 18 units. Then as I found my seat in the theatre, I realized that Jimmy Tait, whom I hadn’t seen since attending a showing of Misunderstood, was beside me. Hugs were exchanged.
All this to ask, what are the odds of running into people who are on the periphery of our lives – in places where we share common interests, in remote cities yet untraveled, or in our dreams? Are these collisions accident or fate? I think of times when the course of my life was changed as a direct result of such chance meetings.
Long Division invited me to consider the gravity and levity of encounters with people. I found myself wishing to remember exact lines that were pithy analogies of math and human exchange. The text, which was delivered by a fine cast of actors, was recognizably Peter Dickinson’s: the sing-song syntax and dry lyricism of precise words that captured potent questions about life. Throughout, the clever use of phrases such as “in addition” to describe events.
Whereas much of the play was a silky cocoon of existential inquiry, the story revealed a tragedy. This tension worked, yet I occasionally wished for a less emphatic treatment of human drama. But then, I know nothing about theatre….
I do know a little about dance and found choreographer Lesley Telford’s work bang on. Without being illustrative or literal, the actors moved through space to navigate circumstances in time. The dance, though abstract, seemed natural, and added texture to characters and scenes. And, the movement was styling!
I also liked the projection of mathematical formulas on a backdrop of Pythagorean 3D triangles. Coming from dance, where projections are often used but usually ignored, I appreciated that the actors actually looked at the projections to confirm that, indeed, complex equations attend the sum total of life’s many variables.
My favorite of the play’s many equations and corresponding metaphors was this: the empty set is a subset of every set.
Like many people, I often feel like the outcast quality in a mass quantity of digits that belong. But Long Division helps me with this affliction, suggesting that the nothingness of my empty set is part of a greater equation: humanity.
This morning I woke up and thought about my life as an artist and realized that if nothing else, I have at my side and within me, the exponential prowess of zero.
Thank you for the beautiful work, Peter.