Drake Theatre Arts presents their final production of the fall semester, Silent Sky, by American playwright Laura Gunderson; directed by Drake senior Morgan Erwin. It will run from Nov. 17–19 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. in Performing Arts Hall at the Harmon Fine Arts Center on Drake University’s campus.
Silent Sky is the first student directed show of the 2022–2023 season. It tells the story of 19th century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt and her fellow female researchers–or “computers”–in the Harvard University observatory, who set the standard still used today for measuring distances in space while discovering thousands of stars.
Erwin first discovered the story of Silent Sky while attending a national theatre conference. From that moment on, Erwin knew they had to bring this story to life.
“I’ve thought about the show almost every day since then, and knew I wanted to play a part in recreating the awe-filled experience that I first had as an audience member,” Erwin said.
The story of Silent Sky is set in the 19th century. Therefore, Erwin had to complete extensive research to prepare for the job of director.
“As well as my director position, I’m also the dramaturg for the show whose role is to research and analyze the historical and social context of the time period to better inform the entire production team of how this story fits into the history,” Erwin said. “Aside from research, I wanted to capture the quality of wonder, curiosity, and love for the stars which inspired these women to pursue the astronomical field.”
Silent Sky not only captures a moment of historical significance, but also celebrates the success of the women who made these discoveries. Drake senior Catherine Farrell plays the lead role of Henrietta Leavitt.
“Like many people’s stories, the women in Silent Sky who helped shape how we study space today have been lost to time and history,” Farrell said. “We want to share their stories with the world because everyone should know who these women were and what they did for us … they were carving out their own space in a world full of men and our society should applaud them as much as we celebrate Newton or Kepler.”
While the show contains a lot of scientific background, cast member Maren Grant explains that the production can be enjoyed by any audience member.
“There’s humor, there’s drama, there’s profound insights on humanity, what more could you want from a night at the theatre,” Grant said. “A lot of really lovely and talented people have put a lot of work into this show, onstage and offstage, and coming to see the show also supports the work that we put into this production.”
Erwin highlights the importance of coming to see this production and the discoveries audience members may make afterwards.
“My hope is that Silent Sky will inspire young women in any career field to persevere in their passions,” Erwin said. “You may never know what you can discover.”
Tickets for Silent Sky can be purchased now at the Fine Arts Box Office or at tix.com/ticket-sales/drakefinearts/6865.