Performance of “Silent Sky” Illuminates the Past and Inspires the Present

Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky” plays out on the stage like a perfectly choreographed dance, actors and tech in sync with one another, carrying the unique and timeless story of the woman who measured our universe.

“Silent Sky” follows a young Henrietta Leavitt, played by Analia McEnelly, as she navigates her job mapping stars in the early space program. Working alongside her are Annie Cannon (Kiaya Scott), a strong, powerful yet graceful leader, demure but demanding when need be, and Williamina Fleming (Cassidy Ochs), a spitfire Scottish woman not afraid to speak her mind. The plot is based on real women and their discoveries which paved the way for astronomers and space enthusiasts alike.

Complicating Leavitt’s narrative are astronomer’s apprentice Peter Shaw (played by Zach Howard) and her sister, Margaret Leavitt (played by Brita Fagerstorm). Henrietta is pulled in several directions at once, feeling forced to choose between her career, love life and family. Each choice she makes opens a door to a “what would’ve been” that is promptly silenced by the reality of “what is”, making each plot point a poignant metaphor.

“This play melds the ideas of science, music, and religion; and examines the incredible power of one woman’s determination and resilience,” director Thomas Prior said. “It was a time when women were marginalized; they didn’t have a voice, the power to vote, and were attempting to discover themselves in a man’s world.”

Even with the crushing historical context, the play never feels anchored to its source time. Rather, it floats with the knowledge that the struggles and feelings of these characters are still alive in our hearts today.

“The show was so beautiful,” Theatre Education major Jia Wolk said. “All of the actors were phenomenal and the tech did a great job at making the production feel like I was actually there.”

The outstanding technical work stitched the whole show together. A sky full of stars is seen over the stage, each scene change was conducted quickly and efficiently by silent, black clad stage hands that took us from a small house in Wisconsin to the Harvard Observatory in under a minute. The music, at times complimented by Fagerstorm’s lovely singing voice, gave the show a sort of effortless flow.

“I loved every minute of it,” freshman Robert Ardie said. “It showed that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams because you can get so close, but you can stray away and get so far.”

The Sam Houston State University Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre will now turn its full attention to the premiere of the “The Government Inspector” on Nov. 1.

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