By: MaKenzie Free
The Williams Baptist College theatre department will close its 2017-2018 season with Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky,” which will run April 5-6. The show is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Old Chapel at Williams.
“Silent Sky” is based on a true story and highlights the life of Henrietta Leavitt, who became the first person to map out the sky. Her groundbreaking discovery did not come easy, however.
Upon arriving at the Harvard Observatory in the 19th century, Leavitt is quickly confronted with the notion that men and women are not equal. She finds herself unable to use the telescope or focus on original research, which results in her settling for becoming a human computer. During her computing years, she works closely with Annie Cannon and Williamina Flemming, who encourage her to stay persistent in the pursuit of the heavens and the Earth, which eventually leads to her groundbreaking discoveries.
Director Melinda Williams chose this play because she said she “enjoys doing shows based on real people and their lives, which allows for educating the theatre artists and the audience.”
“When the audience leaves the show, I hope that they realize the contributions women have made in the history of this nation. Not only in math and science, but all areas: politics, art, music,” said Williams.
“Now, you see women in positions of authority that you did not in the 1900s, the date of the play. Today’s feminist movement seems to move outside of the workplace and focuses on valuing a woman for who she is as a person. Both seem to be about not making women fit into a mold. Henrietta saw herself as an astronomer but no one else would call her that, not even her sister,” Williams added.
Henrietta Leavitt is played by senior Alison Turbyeville of Black Rock, Ark., “I am proud to portray the first female to map the sky, and I love the strength and wit that this play represents,” said Turbyeville.
Williamina Flemming, a quick-witted Scottish computer, is portrayed by MaKenzie Free of Beebe, Ark. “I have fallen in love with this play and these characters. ‘Silent Sky’ means a lot to me as a young female. It demonstrates the resiliency of the human spirit and that a little bit of passion mixed with determination can take you anywhere, even to the sky,” noted Free.
Annie Cannon made her way into history books for categorizing stars, and is played by Kristin Britt of Chandler, Texas. “‘Silent Sky’ stands out to me as an expression of our ability to accomplish and obtain whatever seems out of reach. We see the characters breaking through societal boundaries and working in spite of their disadvantages in order to achieve their dreams,” Britt added.
Rounding out the cast are Melanie McKuin of Dexter, Mo., who plays Margaret Leavitt, Henrietta’s sister, and Luke Windham of Cape Town, South Africa, who portrays Peter Shaw, the head astronomers apprentice.
Tickets are $5 for general admission and $3 for senior citizens and students.
Williams is a Christian liberal arts university in Walnut Ridge, Ark., and will officially become Williams Baptist University in July.