Hillsdale College students will be performing a staged reading of contemporary playwright Lauren Gunderson’s play “Silent Sky” on Oct. 17 and 18 in the Fine Arts Building – a historical piece about a young woman pursuing her interest in astronomy at the Harvard College Observatory.
The play is based on the life of Henrietta Leavitt, a female astronomer at the Harvard College Observatory in the early 1900s. At the time, the Observatory had a group of women who were tasked with computing data from the telescope, referring to them as “computers.”
Leavitt made some important discoveries in her time there “that led to influence people like Hubble,” according to Victoria Matsos. The play also includes Leavitt’s love interest in the lab they both work in.
“It’s her navigating her work and her life,” Matsos said.
Matsos said the staged reading series has previously done “new and unpublished” plays, but “Silent Sky” differs in that it is a published play by a contemporary playwright.
Lauren Gunderson is a Southern contemporary playwright who focuses on historical figures. After trying to make a start in New York, Gunderson headed out to the Bay Area and “started gaining a lot of traction” in their theaters and has become popular across the country, according to Matsos.
“Silent Sky” is one of Gunderson’s most popular plays, and Matsos said she loved how the playwright used more contemporary language in a historical story.
“There are lovely comic moments, it’s emotionally a very satisfying story, and it’s a wonderful vehicle for the actors that are in it. They’re doing a beautiful job,” Matsos said.
Freshman Colleen Blockhus, who plays Henrietta Leavitt, said she fell in love with the play instantly because she is interested in space and science herself and found the story to be “very funny, very human, very heartbreaking.” She said the play revolves around Leavitt trying to navigate her passion for science, her life with her family, and her romantic life.
“I think the heart of the play is how Henrietta figures out how to exist in those three worlds because a lot of time it feels like there’s not enough of her to go around,” Blockhus said.
Blockhus said the actors and Matsos are very passionate about the production, and Matsos’ love for the project is “so infectious.”
“I think the important part of it is how much passion and joy that has been put into it because I guarantee you’ll get that passion and joy out of it,” Blockhus said.