February 07, 2018

Theatre UAB presents "Silent Sky" Feb. 21-25

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silent sky webClockwise from top: Theatre UAB students Alicia Batterson as Henrietta Leavitt, Chance Novalis as Peter Shaw, Katie Strickland as Annie Cannon, Lew Williams as Williamina Fleming and Victoria Cruz as Margaret Leavitt star in "Silent Sky."“Silent Sky,” a play by Lauren Gunderson based on the true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries.

Theatre UAB will present this timely play, about an unconventional woman who rejects the limitations of her Midwestern religious upbringing to explore humankind’s place in the universe. Theatre UAB is the performance company of the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Theatre.

Shows are at 7:30 p.m. nightly Feb. 21-24 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 25, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, Sirote Theatre. Tickets are $12 and $15, $6 for students, and $10 for UAB employees and senior citizens. For tickets, call 205-975-2787 or go to www.AlysStephens.org. Visit Theatre UAB online at www.uab.edu/cas/theatre.

The play’s director, Karla Koskinen, says surely one of Gunderson’s main intentions is “to tell these women’s stories, in order to acknowledge female accomplishments that are often neglected in the male-constructed historical record. 

“In ‘Silent Sky’ she recognizes Henrietta Leavitt who, against great odds, discovered how to measure the universe, thereby changing the field of astronomy,” Koskinen said. Along with Williamina Fleming and Annie Cannon, she represents unconventional women of the early 20th century who forged their own paths in order to make significant scientific contributions.

“We are telling the story of women who made major contributions to the field of astronomy but are relatively unknown,” Koskinen said. “Like the story of the female mathematicians in ‘Hidden Figures,’ these women’s stories were not told.”

“Through the two sisters, Gunderson demonstrates how both the heart and the head are necessary to live a good life.”

As Henrietta, in her free time, attempts to measure the light and distance of stars, she must also take measure of her life on Earth, trying to balance her dedication to science with family obligations and the possibility of love. Gunderson juxtaposes these female pioneers with Margaret, Henrietta’s sister who is committed to family, religion and art. The play’s themes are the ordinary versus the exceptional, sacred versus scientific, family versus career, the known versus the unknown.

“Through the two sisters, Gunderson demonstrates how both the heart and the head are necessary to live a good life,” Koskinen said.

The style of the production is romantic, magical and vast; the practical set minimal and carefully selected. Theatre UAB collaborated with Assistant Professor of New Media Elizabeth Pellathy in the Department of Art and Art History and two of her students, Millena Oliverira and Courtney Lassiter, to create the projections for “Silent Sky.” 

The cast is Alicia Batterson of Columbus, Ohio as Henrietta Leavitt, Chance Novalis of Madison as Peter Shaw, Katie Strickland of Scottsboro as Annie Cannon, Lew Williams of Scottsboro as Williamina Fleming and Victoria Cruz of Birmingham as Margaret Leavitt. Assistant directors for the production are Hayley Procacci and Roxana Munoz, both of Hoover. Stage manager for the production is Spencer Webb of Madison, with Anna Whitlock of Alabaster and Farryn Owens of Knoxville as assistant stage managers. Participating faculty include Marlene Johnson, vocal coach; Kelly Allison, set design; Kimberly Schnormeier, costume design; David Page, lighting design; Katherine Montgomery, sound design; and Marc Quattlebaum, properties design.