How much passion does it take to reach for the stars in a world that wants you to stay grounded? That is the question Lauren Gunderson’s play Silent Sky asks of its central character, Henriette Leavitt.
Silent Sky is being presented in Performance Hall Dec. 9-11 and then Dec. 13-14.
Based on a true story, the play tells the story of astronomers Henrietta Leavitt, Williamina Fleming and Annie Cannon, and the work they accomplished that had a profound and lasting effect on the field of astronomy.
Brooke Henige, a senior theatre major, is directing Silent Sky as her senior capstone project.
This is Henige’s first time directing a full-length production, and the challenge of having to focus on so many moving parts of a play has been a difficult but exciting experience for her. From helping actors with their characters to keeping track of costumes, lighting, props and makeup, a director never stops working.
“You really have to be aware of everything that’s going on,” Henige said. “You have to think about everything and plan for everything.”
But the excitement of directing far outweighs the frustrations. Henige said the most exciting thing has been seeing the production move from concepts and ideas to concrete and visible sets, furniture and props.
“Seeing all the concepts and the vision that we talked about back in September—that’s all coming to reality,” Henige said. “That’s what’s so cool and beautiful.”
And Henige does not work alone. Silent Sky is an all-student production, and Henige meets with her production team regularly to make sure the production is on track. Every person on the production team has a role to play and specific tasks to do that they pour their heart into.
“Everyone on the team is so passionate about the play,” Henige said. “I 100% could not do this on my own.” Set in the early twentieth century, Silent Sky seeks to champion women who lived during a time when most women’s accomplishments were overlooked or credited to men and features an almost entirely female cast.
The role of Henrietta Leavitt is played by Kate Jones, a junior journalism and mass communication major. For Jones, playing a character who achieved amazing scientific work during a time in history when men and women were not considered equal has given her an interesting look at history.
The historical context and the obstacles that existed for women during that time are part of what makes the passionate Leavitt and her story inspiring. “It’s a beautiful story, and stories are such an integral part of who we are as people,” Jones said.
Silent Sky is a story of family, love and discovery to Kayley Baker, a junior theatre major, who plays Williamina Fleming. Although Fleming is a character that is very different from Baker herself, Baker is excited to bring such a unique and strong woman to life for the audience, saying that she herself has learned much from Fleming.
“Being Williamina has brought a new light and understanding to me,” Baker said. Reacting to injustice in a righteous manner and knowing when to stand up for one’s own beliefs are just two of the things Baker said she learned from Williamina.
Baker hopes audiences will connect with and resonate with this story of astonishing discoveries and characters that are more than meets the eye. “You truly see this story come to life,” Baker said. “It’s wonderful, beautiful and extremely moving.”