Mathematical Three-Way

Long before teen-angst films such as She's All That and 10 Things I Hate About You showed us that true love is often right before our eyes (and only needs highlights, contacts and a bitchin' new outfit for us to see it), there was Norman Juster's 1964 classic picture book, The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics. Juster, who also wrote the acclaimed children's book The Phantom Tollbooth, made an indelible impression in our minds with this simple tale of a "love triangle" between a nerdy line, a curvaceous dot and a sexy little squiggle.

Allow us to break it down: Picture a straight-laced black line (played by Freddy Prinze Jr.?) who is ga-ga over this self-centered red dot chick. He tries to woo her, but the red dot (that's Ms. Dot, if you're nasty) thinks that the line is, well, boring: dependable and likable, but a stiff snoozer. Naturally, she is instead attracted to the local bad boy: a squiggle line. (Insert leather jacket, pouty lips and hard-rock soundtrack here.) The squiggle promises her excitement, danger and passion.

Well, we all know what happens next. There's a five-minute montage where the line goes off to learn how to love himself and become all flexible and stuff. He discovers he can bend and make all these different shapes out of his line. In other words, he gets a makeover, exposing the inner beauty he possessed all along so that now everyone can see it. Ms. Dot gets more than a little excited by the line's new, ahem, pliability, and soon the squiggle is just an unruly afterthought with sand in his face.

Juster later turned his little love tale into an Academy Award-winning animated short in 1965. The beauty of the story is in the multiple levels in which it can be experienced: literal, metaphorical and, yes, mathematical.

But hey, see for yourself this weekend when the University of Texas at Dallas presents its take on the tale with the world premiere of composer Robert Xavier Rodríguez's version of The Dot and the Line, narrated by Fred Curchack and with music by the Musica Nova and Voices of Change ensembles. The multimedia evening will also feature The Story of Ferdinand by Alan Ridout, Sports et divertissements by Erik Satie and Rodríguez's The Food of Love, based on food texts by Shakespeare. The concert's soloists will also include violinist Maria Schleuning, pianist Jeff Lankov, narrator Pierrette LaCour and conductor Lawrence Loh.

Isn't it time you gave your Blockbuster card a rest and experienced some real (kind of, sort of) human drama? Maybe there's a little black line in you. Maybe you have your own little red dot you're trying to impress and should bring her to the concert. Who knows, you both may get inspired to do a little number-crunching of your own.

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Christopher Wynn