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'Silent Sky' play opening; honors female scientist

On October 16, 2019

BY KAELYN JOHNSON

VN SPECIAL WRITER

Detroit Mercy Theater Company kicks off its 49th season with Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky,” a true story that honors an important woman in history.

In the 19th century, as women were fighting for the right to vote, Henrietta Leavitt made a difference in the way female scientists were viewed and contributed to the impact of astronomy.

After discovering 2,400 new variable stars, Leavitt became known for her discovery of the distance key, which is known as “Leavitt’s Law.”

The drama uncovers the story of her experience of getting a position at Harvard College Observatory while working as one of their many “computers” measuring the brightness of stars by inspecting photographic plates.

“We’re giving a platform for empowering not only women but women of science,” said adjunct professor Sarah Hawkins, who is directing the play.

This production marks Hawskins’ directorial debut at Detroit Mercy.

Hawkins is in her second year with the university.

She grew up with a passion for theater, passed down through her mother, and has been doing it all of her life.

In fact, she noted, her mother received news of being pregnant with her while in a production herself.

“I was always supposed to be on stage,” said Hawkins.

Members of the theater company are honored to work with such a distinguished director and professor.

“Silent Sky” was written by Lauren Gunderson, who is described on Wikipedia as “America’s most produced living playwright.”

If you are a fan of the movie “Hidden Figures,” you will enjoy her story of a profound, groundbreaking woman.

“A lot of history focuses on the white men of science, math and history because those are the men who are given opportunities,” said Hawkins. “But there were a lot of women and people of color behind the scenes doing all of the work.”

Leavitt discovered the way we measure distance in space.

Similar to many iconic women in history, Leavitt’s work has gone unnoticed.

Hawkins is excited by the platform that Detroit Mercy students have been given to recognize and honor women in science.

Amelia Glenn, a junior at the university pursuing a major in theater, plays Henrietta Leavitt in “Silent Sky.”

Glenn said that her character, Leavitt, is attempting to find her way in the world of astronomy.

This is Glenn’s second production at Detroit Mercy after rediscovering her high school love for acting.

Taylor LaPorte, a third-year theater major, is the stage manager.

LaPorte said that students should see “Silent Sky” to acknowledge the existence of women in history and to recognize women as a priority.

The show opens at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Marlene Boll Theater at the YMCA in Detroit.

Numerous other stagings are scheduled.

Tickets are available at www.detroitmercyarts.com.

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