Mui combines creativity with math

The big city to the small town

Mui had a very happy childhood. Hailing from Queens, New York, his community allowed him many opportunities to explore myriad interests. Mui enjoyed New York although he spent the first 10 years of his life in Hong Kong. He found many friends amongst the immigrant children in New York while his parents worked very hard-his father was a driving instructor and his mother worked long days as a seamstress. Mui fondly remembers his high school years and claims he was always involved in random activities. He was an active participant in the math team, did layout for the school magazine and was a proud member of the Brooklyn Technical High School Honor Society.

Mui discovered the College by chance. The summer between his junior and senior year he attended a summer program at Hampshire College and fell in love with the area. His senior year, he applied to Amherst due to a process of elimination. Obviously Smith and Mt. Holyoke Colleges only accept women, and Mui knew that Hampshire does not have a math department, a subject he knew he wanted to pursue. Mui also knew that UMass was too big. It was not until he after he was accepted to Amherst that he began to realize the benefits of a small liberal arts college and started looking forward to his first year with eager anticipation.

While at Amherst, Mui continued to pursue a wide gamut of interests. He was enthusiastic to get involved in social activism and politics but was disheartened by the relative apathy he encountered. At first, he was disappointed that political groups on campus seemed more interested in hosting fun social events as opposed to awareness events, and he quickly lost interest. Mui noted that since his first year at the College, the political groups on campus are much more effective, and in retrospect he says he wishes he had had more time to devote to them.

A star is born

Mui became interested in theater in high school and was happy to see that the Five Colleges awarded him great opportunity to pursue his passion. In high school he had been forced to study Shakespeare, and although he hated the subject, Mui thought the theatrical aspect of plays was extremely fascinating.

Mui became more acquainted with theater after taking a few random classes in the theater and dance department. Amherst’s lack of core curriculum led him to take new risks and he signed up for a first-year seminar called Performance.

Mui claims to be a poster child of fate, because the experience he had with this class inspired him to become the great actor he is today. He enjoyed the class immensely. “Performance was the ideal first-year seminar, because we got to sit around and talk about art,” he said. “We saw art in action. And we also physically did art ourselves.”

During his freshman year, Mui became involved in the theater scene by assisting with the production of a senior thesis. He loved the production process so much that he decided to give acting a try. He was granted a small part in Jeremy Basescu ’02’s senior thesis, “Too Many People in This House.” Mui offered comic relief as a cross-dressing angel.

Mui and some friends then formed the Amherst Theater Group, which is not active now, but then was a very prolific student-run theater group on campus. With the Amherst Theater Group, Mui made a lot of friends and produced a number of plays including Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.” Mui also acted in “Pastel City” and Julia Brownell ’04’s senior thesis, “Zora’s Barbeque.”

Although all of these plays were fun for Mui to produce and act in, he never forgot his first part in “Too Many People in This House.” His reason for loving that particular piece is a testament to his originality: “We got to do all sorts of crazy things like climb through windows and wear sparkly sweatsuits. It was very fun. It was definitely random and out there.” Vanessa Hettinger covered the production in The Amherst Student on Feb. 20, 2002. “Mui’s whimsical representation of an angel … was well-loved by the audience,” she wrote. “When asked how he felt about his colorful apron, Mui simply stated, ‘I was hoping for a dress.'”

Mui’s love of the theater combined with his love of math, led him to write and produce one of the most creative plays the College’s department of theater and dance has seen for years. Mui decided to produce a thesis for his theater and dance major rather than his mathematics major, primarily because it was required but also because he knew he wanted to do something big and the theater and dance department would support a large project.

“The Edges That Remain” opened on March 3 in the Holden Theater. The brilliant play was a dramatic account of a new fairy tale. The play explores the beauty of mathematics with a cast consisting of crazy and upbeat characters. “The Edges That Remain” begins at the ending and poses the rarely explored question of what comes after a story ends “happily ever after.” The protagonist, Eleanor, has been locked up in an attic for the span of her lifetime, forced to work on her father’s math proofs. She wants to get out of the attic and receive credit for her hard work, and she finally starts to realize her dreams when her father dies. However, her plans quickly become convoluted by a jealous sister, a prince who is in love, a fairy godmother who thinks she is a lawyer and even a murder charge!

The play is a poignant exploration of the limits of intellectualism when it comes to interpersonal relationships. When asked why he decided to produce such an original piece, Mui humbly answered, “There isn’t enough stuff like this out there.”

Committed to math

Mui has always been interested in math, even as a child. He skipped many levels of math, but Spanish, which has always been the bane of his existence, kept him back from fully skipping ahead in years. In high school he was on the math team, and Mui explained that at a technical high school he attended, being on the math team was tantamount to being on an athletic team. Mui has always enjoyed doing math problems, claiming that they are “fun.” He has always wanted to pursue a career in academia which focuses on the theoretical rather than the practical. He notes that he is looking forward to attending a graduate program next year, down the road at UMass.

Mui thinks mathematics is a unique practice. “Mathematics is extraordinary as an extremely intellectual pursuit,” he said. “It is a practice free from politics and theoretically it offers a field in which people can unite and come together and learn from one another while delving into a very interesting subject.”

Mui hopes to get his Ph.D. in mathematics and one day to become a professor at the secondary school level. However, he has an open mind and is also considering a career in library science. He exclaims, “Librarians are cool!”

Truly an original

Mui has always been attracted to random and crazy extracurricular activities. He is a member of the Amherst College Science Fiction and Fantasy Club. He loves the group because half of his friends are in it and he finds fantasy interesting, mind-opening and imaginative.

Mui is best known for his distinctive fashion sense. When asked about his tendency to wear skirts, Mui had a very common sense answer. “Pants are too hot to wear and simply put, skirts are more comfortable.” He giggles, and his whimsical nature manifests itself: “Besides, skirts are fun to spin around in and gender roles in terms of dress is just dumb.”

Mui has taken from Amherst the ability to play and come into his own. Amherst has taken from Wing the ability to laugh and to enjoy the spontaneity that life brings. “I’ve known Wing since freshman year and he has always struck me as a brilliant and insane character,” said Devindra Hardawar ’05, a close friend of Mui’s. “In ten years, I could see him as a successful mathematics scholar or an alcoholic playwright, or perhaps even an alcoholic math scholar. Any of these scenarios wouldn’t surprise me.”