Sometimes it is easy for us to think that math and theater are two academic disciplines that have nothing to do with each other. But this is not the case, especially at DCT!
Have you ever noticed the name listed above the double doors of DCT’s 390-seat theater inside the Rosewood Center For Family Arts? DCT Executive Artistic Director & Co-Founder Robyn Flatt named the Paul and Kitty Baker Theater after her two parents. Her father Paul Baker was a renowned theater expert, and her mother Kitty Baker is a mathematician. Their incredible legacies live on in Robyn and in the continued success of Dallas Children’s Theater, which is approaching its 30th season of inspiring kids and families through the power of live theater.
As DCT’s current show A Wrinkle In Time is being performed on the Baker Theater stage, Robyn reflects on her upbringing – how the powerful combination of math and theater influenced her life path and why emphasizing strong female heroines like Meg Murry of A Wrinkle In Time is an important aspect of DCT’s mission.
Q: Your mother is a mathematician, and your father was a renowned theater expert. Tell us how this background in math and the arts affected your upbringing and your life path.
A: Of course, by growing up on the Baylor University campus where our mother taught math and our father was director of the Baylor University’s Drama department and Baylor Theater, higher education was a way of life. The arts were considered by both of our parents to be at the center of developing an engaged, productive individual. Mother, with the help of a neighbor musician friend, started a children’s theater for my sister Retta and me when I was in third grade, and my father agreed to host it at the Baylor Theater. Henceforth, theater was always a dominant part of my life. All of us were encouraged to apply our talents and contribute to our communities, and these concepts have passed along to the next two generations of girls in our family, or so it seems at this time.
Q: It’s pretty obvious you inherited your father’s theatrical passion and talent. Did you inherit your mother’s knack for numbers, too?
A: Though I’m not always the fastest at adding up a group of numbers, I have an excellent sense of number patterns and relationships that is somehow instinctive. I figured out quickly in high school how to stretch my $2.50/week allowance to ultimately save enough to purchase fabric and then make a blouse or skirt. I oversaw budgets at the Dallas Theater Center during the years I ran their Theater in the Parks program and managed them very well. Numbers for me are symbols. I suppose I gleaned that from our mother who often took numbers and translated them into patterns for quilts and weaving projects. She always told us that numbers and art are really just two sides of the same coin. Mother, now 100 years old, had an amazingly clear grasp of the interrelatedness of math, science and the arts from the education she received at Randolph Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Q: A Wrinkle In Time is arguably the first sci-fi novel to appeal to young girls and feature a strong female heroine. Why do you think it is important for girls in particular to see this show?
A: Girls need as many strong female role models as possible. I was fortunate that my mother, born in 1912, forged ahead into math at a time when very few women sought advanced degrees. She was one of very few female students in her graduate math classes at the University of Chicago. Mother was only three months away from completing a doctorate in math when the Great Depression of the 1930’s made it financially impossible for her to continue. In spite of that, she was a highly respected math teacher until she retired around 1980. My mother was my own in-house role model. There was never a question for me about whether, as a girl, I could pursue whatever I wanted to.
Q: Throughout the years, DCT has produced many shows with strong female leads. Why do you think doing these kinds of shows are important to the mission of DCT?
A: Today’s world still presents many hurdles for women. Therefore, I feel it is very important for Dallas Children’s Theater to help empower young girls by bringing courageous female role models to the stage and thus encourage them to engage in the battle to follow their own, individual dreams. The experience of theater is a powerful one. Following DCT’s performances, many of these young girls feel empowered to face their own challenges, seek ways to overcome their own difficulties and step forward to shape their own dynamic futures. When this happens, we say, “Mission Accomplished.”