Last year’s Oscars featured the movie “Hidden Figures,” detailing the success of women at NASA, which created a lot of dialogue on the number of scientific discoveries that are attributed to the brains of women and the role that women play in science in general. This dialogue continues and is still growing. To add to it is the play “Silent Sky” by Lauren Gunderson opening at UNCG on March 15.
The play is directed by Christine Morris, a resident professor at UNCG. It is based on the true story of the life of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman who worked at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s as one of the “Human Computers” mapping the stars.
“Leavitt wasn’t rightly recognized in her lifetime,” Morris said. “But, she and her all-female group charged with counting stars on photographic plates at Harvard eventually changed astronomy forever thanks to their examination of Earth’s place in the cosmos.”
This poetic and thought-provoking play provides insight into the treatment of women during this time. The play reveals the sexist ideals present, such as the fact that the men in charge of this project are calculating the time by “girl hours.” This is a play that shows the success of women that men have been taking credit for before we had knowledge of who actually did the work. It shows the struggles and hardships present for women working during this time and how that affects the world we live in today.
Among the many issues that come with being a female astronomer during this time, the main character also faces the issues of life and the possibility of love. She faces struggles of personal versus professional life. “Silent Sky,” asks the big, complex questions of where are we and why are we here and what is the point of all this? The stars and the universe can make us all feel small, and when we are faced with our own smallness, what then, do we discover about ourselves?
Although this play takes places over a hundred years ago, it is still relevant to our modern times. The work that the women did on this project is still being referenced in modern day discoveries. Their work contributed to the creation of the Hubble telescope, which is still in space and taking pictures for us to this day. Astronomical discoveries are still being made because of the work these women did.
The timing of this play could not be more appropriate, through the relevance of the ever changing world of science and the role women played in advancing it. It is written by a young woman playwright, which in and of itself, attributes to the success of women.
“Silent Sky” also features many roles that will be played by women – one of them being Bryanna Vinge, who is playing Henrietta as her thesis role in the MFA acting program at UNCG.
“Ultimately this play is about curiosity, and following it as far as it will take you, no matter what bumps in the road you come across,” Vinge said.
This play explores not only unique characters but the role that history has in our lives today and why it is important to learn about our history. The depth and poetic nature that this play addresses with sexism and our place in this world is sure to make a strong impression on the UNCG stage and is a must-see for the season.
The play will open on March 15 and run through March 18 at the Sprinkle Theater on Tate Street. Tickets can be bought at the box office in the Sprinkle building or online at tiradstage.org.