ABOVE: Henrietta Leavitt, played by Elizabeth Santana, theatre performance junior, looks up to the sky. ‘Silent Sky’ tells the story about Henrietta Leavitt, a women astronomer from the 1900s. (Lauren Sieh/Staff photographer)
By Lilia Bowman-Bekemeyer
What started with a few difficulties and concerns of performing during a pandemic, ended in an emotional and uplifting night with the story Silent Sky.
The audience seating consisted of blankets on the grass and lawn chairs distanced from other goers, but being underneath the night sky is what brought this play together. A story about Henrietta Leavitt, an astronomer from the early 1900s played by Elizabeth Santana, theatre performance junior.
The performance started with Henrietta talking to her sister, Margaret Leavitt, played by Telara Day, musical theatre senior, about Henrietta getting a job at Harvard University as a computer. You can sense just by this conversation that the Leavitt’s are a very close family, especially Henrietta and Margaret.
During this scene, the sound from both performers was cutting in and out, but the actors would speak loudly and the night around them was so quiet that the audience could hear them. According to Santana, the sound was not the only thing bothering her, as all of the actors wore clear masks to be safe while performing.
“The show went better than I thought it would,” said Santana after the show.
Henrietta goes to Harvard and meets Peter Shaw, played by Gabriel Gonzalez, communications junior, and they immediately start with an awkward conversation. Shaw starts by saying he is not Dr. Pickering, who she assumes she is meeting, and that he works for Pickering. Shaw insults Henrietta completely by accident, and she seems annoyed and tries to leave. Shaw convinces her to stay.
From there, Henrietta works so intensely when she starts, that she does not even realize her sister is moving forward in her life through marriage and childbearing. Her father sends her a book and asks about it through Margaret’s letters, but Henrietta assumes it is a Bible, as her father is a pastor, and ignores the package.
The women Henrietta works with are both computers as well. Annie Cannon, played by Tori Sublett, accounting and business administration sophomore, and Williamina Fleming, played by Jamieson Campo, musical theatre junior.
Both of these women were astounding computers and encouraged Henrietta to pursue her discoveries with the recordings of Cepheid stars.
All while she is working, Henrietta and Shaw fall in love, but Henrietta’s father dies suddenly and she goes home to help her sister. She stays there for a few years.
When she returns to Harvard to work, Shaw is married and tells her he believes the universe is not as massive as she believes.
Fleming and Cannon keep a friendship with Henrietta and always stand by her side throughout the entire story.
“I feel I didn’t do my character justice,” said Campo, “because she was such a hardworking and amazing woman.”
Fleming was kind to Henrietta even when Cannon was not. When Cannon became a Suffragette and fought for the legalization of women to vote, Fleming encouraged her and stood by Henrietta’s side while she tried to prove her work was worth something.
All while Henrietta made these discoveries because she stayed late at work, she was told by Shaw and Dr. Pickering that she could not use the telescope she dreamed of using, the Great Refractor.
When Henrietta, Cannon, Margaret, Shaw, and Fleming find out that Henrietta’s work is proved to be true by her colleagues, they take her to the telescope and she looks through it.
Although the story ends sadly by telling how each person died, the story was brought together by Henrietta opening the book her father sent her years before, and Shaw reading a poem from it.