College of Charleston SCHOOL OF THE ARTS

‘Silent Sky’ Pays Tribute to Lesser-Known Woman Astronomer

Presented by the College of Charleston Department of Theatre and Dance, Silent Sky is based on the true story of an intrepid, hearing-impaired woman astronomer, Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Written by Lauren Gunderson who was recently named the most produced living playwright in America by American Theatre Magazine, the play takes place in the early twentieth century in which Leavitt explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries – when women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. 

The backdrop of the suffragist movement brings Leavitt’s choice to pursue astronomy into political focus. Social progress, like scientific progress, can be hard to see when one is trapped among earthly complications. The play was coincidentally scheduled for performance as current cinema box office hit, “Hidden Figures” also shares the obstacles and triumphs of lesser-known, vital pioneers of modern astronomy.

DETAILS: The production will run Thursday, Feb. 16 through Monday, Feb. 20. Curtain times will be 7:30 p.m., with an additional 2:00 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Feb. 19. A talkback will occur after the show on opening night. Performances will take place at the Emmett Robinson Theatre in the Simons Center for the Arts, 54 Saint Philip St. Admission is $20 for general public; $15 for senior citizens, College of Charleston employees, and non-College of Charleston students; $12 College of Charleston students. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (843) 953-6306. 

***Learn more about the historical information and the production process for Silent Sky.

The College’s production is directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Vivian Appler, who writes, “The turn of the twentieth century was explosive in terms of scientific discovery and social change. Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky is inspiring because it dramatizes the intersection of scientific innovation and discovery with women’s suffrage. Einstein’s theory of relativity radically altered notions of how the universe is constructed, and suggested that it is much larger than it was previously thought to be. Leavitt, traditionally understood as having been an amateur astronomer because of her gender, conducted independent research that proved that the universe was indeed much larger than the Milky Way. Gunderson’s energetic script playfully asserts the importance of inclusivity and diversity to the scientific process. It is a delight to direct this smart, funny, science play at the College of Charleston.”

The design team includes students Kate Condon for costumes, Rebekah Rast for scenic design, Garret Bell for lighting, and Horry Kerrison and Mo Dannels as sound designers.  The characters include Jennifer Asouzu as Leavitt, Laighton Cain as Annie Jump Cannon, Michelle Sullivan as Williamena Fleming, Katte Noel as Margaret Leavitt, and Matthew Walker as Peter Shaw.