Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Math + dance + theater = a balanced life

One feature film.

Five main roles.

Three hundred actors auditioning.

It doesn’t take a math major to know that the odds of ending up on the big screen in this scenario aren’t the greatest.

But Trisha Carr ’08—a math major—went for it anyway. And it paid off.

She received one of the five main roles in the full-length independent feature film Brilliant Mistakes, which is scheduled to be released this summer. Although she has performed on stage for many years, this was her first try at a film role. She plays Erin Penney, a college-age girl whose sister, Gabby, gets into a horrible accident. The Salisbury Film production centers on Gabby’s fiancé, Marcus, and how he and Gabby’s family react to and cope with the accident.

Carr’s pleased she got the role, but not completely surprised. She always knew majoring in math could lead to a wide variety of opportunities.

“From my experience, employers in nearly all fields value math majors because a degree in mathematics is essentially a degree in logical, critical and creative thinking. Math is problem solving at its core,” she says. “I love finding solutions, making sense of things around me. To me, math is fun and beautiful. It’s everywhere around us: money, nature, architecture, music, art and theater.”

Trisha Carr ’08 (left) in a Brilliant Mistakes scene. Photo: Starportal Productions, LLC © 2011

By day, Carr works full time as a market research analyst conducting research for clients to determine “the story” from hundreds of pages of data so that she can deliver that story in a clear, concise way. By night, she does similar work—getting the story out—on stage as an actress and a choreographer.

“At Wheaton I was able to balance my intellectual interests and my love for performing. I’m still doing that,” says Carr, who has a minor in dance.

She was a member of the Wheaton College Dance Company for four years, co-captain her senior year. And she is still involved with the company, returning to choreograph once or twice each year.

In fact, it was through her experience with the dance company and the encouragement of Professor Cheryl Mrozowski that she first discovered her passion for choreography, Carr says. “Without that experience I’m not sure it would be a part of my life today.”

In her home state of Connecticut, she regularly performs and choreographs. In the past two years she has performed in 10 productions, including Annie, 42nd Street, Carousel, The Producers, Oliver!, Kiss Me, Kate, Funny Girl and two productions of A Chorus Line. Last winter she was chosen to choreograph a production of Rent at the Warner Theatre, a 1,800-seat venue in Connecticut.

“Although they may seem disparate, I would say there are definite similarities between math and performing, and especially with dance and choreography,” she says. “Math and dance both deal with ideas such as spatial awareness, patterns, counting and symmetry. In dance, you constantly have to learn patterns and reverse them quickly, and in choreography you have to be able to creatively explore configurations in your mind, thinking about their aesthetic potential. All of these skills are also used in math. Math, acting and choreography all balance analysis and intuition.

“It’s very important to me to do what I love and to maintain a balance in my life. Performing and choreographing are two passions of mine. They don’t need to be my primary job to make me happy, as long as I get to participate in them.”

About Sandy Coleman

Sandy Coleman is the editor of the Wheaton Quarterly and Senior Associate Director in the Communications Office.