Tacoma Little Theatre’s production of Silent Sky was postponed earlier in the season due to COVID disruptions of play schedules. Peg and I were disappointed. When the play was reinstated later in the season we were back on the happy track. After seeing the show, we are now on the thrilling track. The play is written by Lauren Gunderson and directed for TLT by pug Bujeaud. It was worth the wait, although it has only a short run. Don’t wait, order your tickets now. The last show is scheduled for Sunday, July 24th (2:00 PM).
Every local education STEM setting should embrace Silent Sky and send their students to see this production at TLT. Silent Sky itself should be shown again with a longer run locally and across the nation. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is a broad term used to group together academic disciplines. The play Silent Sky is a method that could drive the desire to learn and share among all students.
Silent Sky is a true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt and explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries. Women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. Social progress, like scientific progress, can be hard to see when one is trapped among earthly complications; Henrietta and her female peers believe in progress for both. Their dedication changed the way we understand both the heavens and earth.
Director pug Bujeaud says, “The thing that attracted me to the script is how it’s a celebration of tenacity and the camaraderie of its characters. Their dedication to science alongside their humanity is the heart and soul of the show. I always do a large amount of research for any show; it’s one of the things I love about directing. The joy of discovery about these women, and this chunk of history have been both inspiring and a delight.”
Tacoma Little Theatre’s production of Silent Sky features Jessica Robins as Henrietta Leavitt, Jillian Faulk as Margaret Leavitt, Mason Quinn as Peter Shaw, Rachel Permann as Annie Cannon, and Deya Ozburn as Williamina Fleming.
SYNOPSIS from Stage Agent:
Silent Sky tells the true story of Henrietta Leavitt, an astronomer ahead of her time. It is 1900, and Henrietta has the opportunity to work at Harvard University as a human computer, one of Dr. Edward Pickering’s “harem,” mapping the stars but receiving no scientific credit. When Henrietta arrives, she is eager to use Harvard’s telescope – the Great Refractor – but is told that she will not be able to do any sort of astronomical discovery; she will only log the stars photographed by the department’s men. However, Henrietta will not be dissuaded, and begins the process of recording the changes in Cepheid stars – a scientific discovery that has had a profound and lasting impact on the field of astronomy.
During her inquiry, Henrietta’s relationships strain under her obsessive work ethic; her sister Margaret, her love interest Peter Shaw, and her colleagues Annie Cannon and Williamina Fleming all find themselves pushed aside in favor of a great cosmic mystery. Silent Sky is the poignant tale of a woman’s dedication to the stars, and the human touch that makes life under the vast sky beautiful and timeless.
Silent Sky tells us about the change of women’s status. From clothing to voting and sharing each person’s passions, we’re reminded by the characters that it’s just a hundred years or so since women achieved some elements of success and acceptance, and this is in America.
We loved the simple, but powerful set. When you visit TLT to see Silent Sky, don’t just take your seat. Walk down to the stage and look at it closely. There’s a map of the universe painted on the floor. The working spaces for the “computers” are three tables, three chairs, a magnifying box, which accepts glass transfers from the telescope that shows elements millions of miles away in space . . . and the wooden boxes containing more transfers.
The general backdrop is a night sky filled with stars. To the back left of the stage is a landing like the top of a staircase. It could be the prow of a sailing ship or perhaps a widow’s walk on the top of a house looking over stormy oceans while searching for the return of a loved one . . . or the bridge of the Starship Enterprise waiting for the captain to give the order, “Make it so.”
Deaf and dedicated Henrietta Leavitt accepts the role she is given, but no one expected women to connect the dots and lay out the magic that binds us to a better understanding of the past as well as the future.
The acting is well done. You’ll want to shout and encourage the shy, plus you’ll want to embrace Henrietta’s workmates and you’ll feel the pull of family love from her sister. Director Bujeaud adds “The play celebrates the brilliance and tenacity of not only Henrietta Leavitt but that of her peers Williamina Fleming and Annie Cannon – who each made significant discoveries that led to our knowledge of the stars.”
Silent Sky will run Friday, July 8, through Sunday, July 24, 2022. Friday and Saturday showings are at 7:30 and Sundays at 2. Silent Sky is recommended for ages 12 and up. There will be an ASL Interpreted performance on Sunday, July 24, 2022 at 2:00pm.
For tickets, please visit – tacomalittletheatre.csstix.com/event-details.php?e=377
Leavitt’s efforts in measuring and cataloging the brightness of stars was ground breaking. Her work gave us the ability to measure the distance to faraway galaxies, up to hundreds of light years away. Leavitt’s mind, with pay at only pennies an hour, allowed astronomers to measure distances in our own galaxy and beyond. Because of her we know the Milky Way has a diameter of about 100,000 light years. The work of American astronomer Edwin Hubble, who established the fact of an expanding universe, was made possible by Leavitt’s groundbreaking research. Hubble gave credit to Leavitt as a basis to his work. Swedish mathematician Gösta Mittag-Leffler tried nominating her for the Nobel Prize in 1925, but she had died three years earlier. The Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.
It was exciting to watch the unfolding of the heavens and the sharing and encouragement of learning. We need more plays like this to share.