On Saturday, March 11 at 6:00 p.m., Bellevue College hosted a comedic review of the concepts and history of calculus, “Calculus: The Musical!” This show was followed by “Tesla Ex Machina,” an exploration of the life and inventions of Nikola Tesla. Both shows were free to BC students at the BC PALS Center in the cafeteria.
This touring show delivered a blend of sketch comedy, musical theatre and classroom learning. Using musical parodies that span genres from light opera to hip hop, “Calculus: The Musical!” introduced and illuminated such concepts as limits, integration and differentiation. Matheatre’s comic style dramatized some high points of calculus’ history, with actors playing a variety of roles, including Archimedes, Isaac Newton and Bernhard Riemann, as they make the quest for the instantaneous rate of change and the area under the curve come to life through song. The actors “maintain a surprising humor throughout the show,” and keep “the audience laughing the entire time,” according to critics.
“Tesla Ex Machina” is an energetic theatrical biography, examining science and humanity through a performance that featured demonstrations of a Tesla coil, direct and indirect currents and robotics, according to the website of Seattle writer and actor Ricky Coates, creator the show.
Originally created by Marc Gutman and Sadie Bowman, the musical originally tied together songs that Gutman created as mnemonics when he was a teacher. The show is now in its 10th year and performs at colleges, festivals and high schools all across the country.
The show incorporated a wide variety of song genres, featuring musical tributes to artists such as Lorde, Gilbert and Sullivan, Bonnie Tyler and Eminem to inspire and engage the audience. “Matheatre contacted me because I’m the chair of physical sciences, so they reached out to me and told me about this great educational opportunity,” according to Physical Sciences Program Chair Jennie Mayer. Because of the name and program, she “gravitated towards it. The idea of combining performance art with science is not something you see every day. I did everything I could to bring the show over to BC.”
During the show’s intermission there were club demonstrations, math games and activities, as well as beverages and snacks for purchase.
“Other faculty are involved, and ASG has been great in providing the funding to make it free for students,” said Mayer. BC physics professor Trevor Gamble “has been really important in securing the funding. His physics classes will be doing some activities doing the show.” Students from professor Tony Akhlaghi’s math class also provided intermission activities.
Matheatre is currently touring the country. The event was sponsored by the Associated Student Government, the Math Club and the Chemistry Club.