copyright © 2003 Dwayne Yancey

THE PI OF MAGGIE (five-minute version)

By Dwayne Yancey

Copyright 2003; all rights reserved.

(A tattoo parlor. Maggie is laying on her stomach while the tattoo artist tattooes something on her back. Her friend, Amy, is sitting or standing, showing off her new tattoo.)

AMY: So what do you think?

MAGGIE: Of what?

AMY: My new tattoo. It’s the square root symbol.

MAGGIE: Oh, yeah. It’s – ow – nice.

AMY: You don’t think I’ll have to explain it to too may people when we get back from spring break, do you?

MAGGIE: Oh, I don’t know. Ow!


FI mean, everybody in the math department will get it. Did I tell you I was taking advanced trigonometry next quarter?

MAGGIE: Uh-huh.

AMY: I am. Oh, and you know who else is?

MAGGIE: Who? Ouch!

AMY: Jeremy! You know that guy from our quantum physics class? The tall one?

MAGGIE: Uh-huh. Ouch!

AMY: I heard he had E = mc squared tatttooed on him. Daphne told me that. She wouldn’t tell me where, though, but knowing Daphne, you know what that means ó

TATTOO ARTIST: Now the next little bit is going to sting a little, so please hold still for me, OK?

MAGGIE: OK, I’m trying.

AMY: So how’s yours coming, Maggie?

MAGGIE: It seems to be taking a long time.

AMY: Your first one always feel like it’s taking forever.

MAGGIE: I guess.

AMY: I know when I had my first one done ó you know those cool little multiplication and division symbols I’ve got on my ó

MAGGIE: Are you going to be done soon?

TATTOO ARTIST: Patience, please. I pride myself on my detail work.

AMY: I’ll vouch for that. Look at how nice he did the angle on the square root? It’s got the little crook on it and everything.

MAGGIE: Nice– ow!

TATTOO ARTIST: Please hold still.

AMY: So what are you thinking about doing for your thesis in history of mathematics? I was thinking of doing something on Euclidian geometry, but then I thought, no, everybody does that, so maybe I ought to do something on Pythagoras, or Archimedes –

TATTOO ARTIST: There! Done! Want to have a look?

AMY: Oh, let me see! Let me see.

MAGGIE: You tell me what you think.

(Amy runs over and looks at Maggie’s back.)

AMY: Oh.

MAGGIE: What’s wrong?

AMY: Um, nothing’s wrong.

MAGGIE: Something’s wrong.

AMY: Nothing’s wrong. It’s just that’s it so . . . big.

TATTOO ARTIST: It’s a big number.

MAGGIE: Number?

TATTOO ARTIST: Infinity is a big number.

MAGGIE: What do you mean number?!

TATTOO ARTIST: You said you wanted pi on your shoulder. So I’ve done pi.

AMY: 3.14515926535 . . . .

MAGGIE: What are you talking about?

TATTOO ARTIST: Pi. The quotient of the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter. The most famous transcendental number of all time.

MAGGIE: I know what pi is! I’ve taken algebra! I’ve taken geometry! I’ve taken calculus, trigonometry, differential mechanics, quantum physics! I know what pi is! What have you done to me?

AMY: It’s different, I’ll admit that.

MAGGIE: Different! Different! Let me up! Let me see! What have you done to me?

When Amy says it’s different, I get worried.

(Maggie gets up; her back is covered with the number for pi, starting on her left shoulder blade and continuing the rest of her back.)

TATTOO ARTIST: Now don’t be irrational about this ó even though that would be appropriate, seeing as how pi is an irrational number.

MAGGIE: Irrational! Who’s being irrational? Why should I be irrational?

AMY: Now don’t freak out, Maggie! It’s really quite –

(Maggie screams as she looks in the mirror.)

AMY (softly) – spectacular.

MAGGIE: You idiot! I wanted the Greek symbol pi, not the number!

TATTOO ARTIST: You asked for pi, I gave you pi. How was I to know all you wanted was the silly little symbol?

MAGGIE: How was I to know you even knew the number? The whole number!

TATTOO ARTIST: Doesn’t everyone know pi? At least out to two places. Heck, that much was even in a Tom Cruise movie. You know, Mission Impossible, where he’s a secret agent and the code for his mission is Job 3:14,î and there’s this riff on pi and what it means . . .

AMY: Perhaps I should have said impressive?

TATTOO ARTIST: Besides, I was a math major until I dropped out.

AMY: From where?

TATTOO ARTIST: Cal Tech. I was in the doctoral program there.

MAGGIE: Great. Just great. What are the odds! I find the only tattoo artist in the whole wide world who knows how to express pi to 200 places!

AMY: Well, that would be more in the realm of probability studies, I’d think.

TATTOO ARTIST: Actually, it’s more like 198 places, because on that first row there’s the 3 and the decimal point. After that, it’s 10 to a row.

MAGGIE: Oooh! I look like a walking bar code!

AMY: Well, look on the bright side, Maggie.

MAGGIE: The bright side? There’s a bright side to having numbers tattooed all over your back?

AMY: The next time you walk past a construction site, it’ll be the architects and civil engineers who whistle at you.

MAGGIE: What are you talking about?

AMY: Pi. Don’t they use that a lot in the building trades?

TATTOO ARTIST: With pi, you can calculate the circumference of a circle, a sphere ó

MAGGIE: All right!

TATTOO ARTIST: A cylinder, a cone ó

MAGGIE: That’s enough!

TATTOO ARTIST: Or any polygon with a circle shape.

MAGGIE: Enough already!

AMY: And pi can be used in all sorts of other ways, too. Einstein’s Gravitational Field Equation has pi in it.

TATTOO ARTIST: You can describe a wave using pi.

AMY: The description of the double helix in DNA uses pi.


AMY: Raindrops?

TATTOO ARTIST: You can use pi to describe the ripples in a pond from where a raindrop hit the water.

AMY: Oh, right.

TATTOO ARTIST: And don’t forget superstrings.

AMY: Or the distribution of primes, or –

TATTOO ARTIST: And you know in "Contact," the Carl Sagan novel, the aliens send a message based on pi. It really is the universal language. Jodie Foster was in the movie.

AMY: Oh, oh, oh, you know Lucy Kaplansky, the folk singer? She does a cute little song called "Song About Pi." Her father was a math professor, you know.

TATTOO ARTIST: And there’s –

(Maggie screams; lights out.)


------------- THE END -------------



Two females, one male

Maggie, a math major

Amy, a math major

Tattoo artist


A table or chair or something to suggest theapparatus in a tattoo parlor

Maggie needs to wear an open-back outfit under her regular clothes, so she get tattooed on her back. You may or may not wish to actually show it.


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