Inspired by the true story of astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, “Silent Sky” explores a society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them.






If you go

What: “Silent Sky” by Lauren Gunderson

When: Nov. 14-17 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

Where: Dorothy Hackett Ward Theater, Fine Arts Center

Admission: $12 adults; $10 faculty, staff, students and seniors

Tickets: Purchase tickets online here

This month, UTC Theatre Company presents Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky,” a play inspired by the women “computers” of Harvard College Observatory at the turn of the 20th century.

It focuses on astronomer Henrietta Leavitt. Although the characters and their work are real, the play is not biographical. Leavitt and her co-workers contributed to the foundation of today’s astronomy, but very few know their names.

“She’s just a footnote,” says Director Gaye Jeffers.

Leavitt and her female co-workers were vital to the Harvard College Observatory, yet they were not allowed to use the telescope. Instead, they painstakingly studied glass plates with photographic images of tiny slices of the sky, mapping and measuring the heavens.

Leavitt’s work on measuring the universe “is astounding,” Jeffers says. “The fact that we don’t know about her kind of breaks my heart.”

The theatrical version of Leavitt might be fictional, but the character’s determination is true to the real woman, as the character tries to balance her dedication to science with family obligations and the possibility of love.

Mark your calendar for these upcoming UTC Theatre Co. Productions:

What: “Elemeno Pea” by Molly Smith Metzler

Details: Worlds collide and sisters square off in this keenly observed comedy about ambition, regret and the choices that shape who we become. Intended for mature audiences.

When: Feb. 13-17, 2018

Where: Dorothy Hackett Ward Theater, Fine Arts Center

Tickets: Purchase tickets here.


What: “Chicago the Musical” by Kander and Ebb

Details: In Roaring 20s Chicago, Roxie Hart murders a faithless lover and convinces her hapless husband Amos to take the rap … until he finds out he’s been duped and turns on Roxie.

When: April 17-21, 2018

Where: Dorothy Hackett Ward Theater, Fine Arts Center

Tickets: Purchase tickets here.

Taking the stage as Leavitt is Cierra Dolata, who says she admires the character’s determination and humility.

“She will fight anything and anybody to get to the place that she believes is where she needs to be and where she’s called to be. But she has this way about her that is still humble.” Dolata explains.

“I really hope people leave thinking about their place in the universe,” Jeffers says. “The play talks a lot about the presence of what’s out there. And there’s discussions of belief systems in the play that encourage people to think about what does happen when we die. What is out there?

“I hope that people will think about themselves in those terms, that there will be some sense of legacy,” she continues. “When work is unfinished, your work can continue to be a legacy of some sort. Not that it has to be famous or you have to be notorious. But your importance on the planet—you might only be important to one person—and that’s enough.”


The Playwright

Atlanta native Lauren Gunderson wrote “Silent Sky” in 2011. She was recently named America’s most produced playwright by American Theatre. Read more about Gunderson in The New Yorker’s “You’ve Probably Never Heard of America’s Most Popular Playwright,” here.


Cast, Production Staff and Crew

The creative team includes: Gaye Jeffers (director and sound design), Adam Miecielica (set design), Kimberly Davis (costume design), Alex Miller-Long (lighting design), and John R. Burgess (technical director).

The company of Silent Sky includes: Maya Abram (Annie Jump Cannon), Samantha Burns (Williamina Fleming), Cierra Dolata (Henrietta Leavitt), Rachel Shannon (Margaret), and Nick Sterling (Peter Shaw). Stage manager is Skylar Ramsey with Claire Johnson as the assistant stage manager.



Check out the production’s Flickr album here.

Media Relations Contacts: Email Shawn Ryan or call (423) 425-4363.

Sarah is a staff writer in UTC's Office of Communications and Marketing.

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