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Drake Theatre Department presents “Silent Sky”

Photo by Meta Lobben | Contributing Writer

Drake University Theatre Arts department will present “Silent Sky” by Lauren Gunderson at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17-19 and 2 p.m. Nov. 20 in the Performing Arts Hall. Tickets are currently available now through when the play opens next week. 

This is a story for the romantics, the feminists and the astronomers alike. It follows the life and journey of real-life astronomer Henrietta Leavitt through her time working at the Harvard Observatory at the turn of the twentieth century, where she tries to balance her scientific passions, family ties and the possibility of love.

Drake senior Morgan Erwin is the director. She calls directing this show a full-circle moment after falling in love with it after seeing it more than five years ago.

“I’ve thought about it every single day since,” Erwin said. “I was just completely in awe at the beauty of it and how powerful it was that I knew I wanted to bring that to other audiences.”

Erwin hopes this show will inspire audiences to look deeper into the people who have had significant impacts on the world around us that may have slipped through the cracks. She also hopes the show will inspire women in the scientific field to persevere and continue to be dedicated to their craft.

“You might not know what you discover and the impact and legacy you will leave behind with your work,” Erwin said. 

Throughout the show, Henrietta makes scientific discoveries that change the way we view space. But despite her contributions to the field of astronomy, Henrietta’s story, and other stories of women like her, have often been lost in history.

Catherine Farrell, a senior, plays Henrietta Leavitt. She believes that the erasure of those women’s stories in the astronomical field is exactly why this story is important today.

“Two of the castmates are in astronomy right now. And they had one lecture on the women of astronomy, and I was like, ‘They should be mentioned as much as Newton or Kepler,’” Farrell said. 

Like Erwin, Farrell has wanted to be a part of this show for years. Young people may understand getting the obsession on a historical event or person, and then wanting to learn all about it. 

For Farrell, Henrietta was that person. Farrell called it a crazy feeling to now be bringing her to life on stage.

“I’m just so grateful that I get to share her story, but also to, like, give a little piece of myself to her and get to love her,” Farrell said. 

Henrietta spends much of the show overcoming what she is told are “womanly” things and working to be a part of something greater. Farrell hopes this show will inspire audiences to go beyond what is expected of them and to work to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

“There is a line in this show that has stuck with me for quite some time now. And it’s like, ‘If we are not finding the largest truth and what have we spent our lives doing, what’s the point of all of this?’ And so I hope people seek to find more for themselves,” Farrell said. 

Farrell describes the show as both heartwarming and gut-wrenching. Audiences will laugh and cry and leave the theater with new knowledge of a forgotten woman who shaped the way we look at the stars.

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