Now Playing

February 19, 2019

Bradley University Theatre proudly opens its spring season with “Silent Sky,” Lauren Gunderson’s acclaimed play about Henrietta Leavitt, the early 20th-century astronomer whose discoveries forever changed the way that we understand the universe. Featuring freshman performance major Emma O’Mahoney as Henrietta, the play is directed by BU senior Trevor Baty, the second student ever to direct on the Bradley Theatre mainstage. He is joined by student designers senior Zavier Simmons (lighting), sophomore Cierra Conrad (sound) and junior Stephanie Begalke (hair and makeup). Faculty members Chad Lowell and Becki Arnold designed scenery and costumes, respectively. Performances run from February 28 to March 10, 2019, at the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts.

Henrietta Leavitt, invited to join a staff of women “computers” at the Harvard Observatory, left her home and family in Wisconsin and distinguished herself in the shadow of male superiors who not only forbade her to touch a telescope but often took credit for her pioneering work. At a time when the Milky Way was commonly believed to comprise the entire universe, Leavitt and her female colleagues studied photographic plates of the stars, laboriously cataloguing them, calculating luminosity and searching for patterns. Leavitt’s unwavering examination of blinking stars, or Cepheids, led her to discover that light could be used to determine the distance and size of the stars in our galaxy—and tell us not only that the universe is infinitely larger than we believed, but also exactly where in its vast reaches we live. These crucial discoveries provided the foundation for the work of later, better-known astronomers, including Edwin Hubble.

Set against the backdrop of both the women’s suffrage movement and the first World War, “Silent Sky” poetically explores the contributions of bold, brilliant women whose passion for discovery brings them into conflict with the male-dominated science establishment of the time and comes at the cost of family ties, romantic attachments, and financial security. As Henrietta’s relations with her distant family become strained, and as she as she reckons with the demands of a budding romance, she finds deep solidarity and validation among her female colleagues.

“Lauren Gunderson is one of the most acclaimed and frequently produced American playwrights of the last decade,” says BU Theatre department chair Scott Kanoff. “In ‘Silent Sky’ she eloquently brings us the compelling story of an American giant who, although largely unacknowledged during her lifetime, provided a critical turning point in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. Leavitt’s discoveries vastly expanded not only what we know about the universe but also the way we think about the limits of human understanding. Her story speaks eloquently to the current moment, and, through this compelling play, we are very excited to introduce it to the Bradley community.”

Henrietta — Emma O’Mahoney
Margaret — Bailey Stockhecke
Wiliamina — Caitlyn Dixon
Annie — Grace Sergott
Peter — Joseph Parker

February 28-March 10, 2019
Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m.

The Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts — 1423 West St. James, Peoria, IL 61625

Tickets and Information
Bradley University Cultural Events Box Office