Henrietta Leavitt was a diligent and inspired scientist, who followed her dream to great discovery. (Submitted)

Chemainus Theatre presents story of pioneering female scientist

Her mind went where other stargazers feared to tread, and it didn’t help that she was female.

A starry-eyed scientist finally gets her due as the Chemainus Theatre Festival presents Silent Sky from Oct. 13 to Nov. 4.

It’s a play that transports audiences back to the time when a female stargazer, Henrietta Leavitt, made a discovery that forever changed our understanding of space.

Silent Sky, written by Lauren Grunderson, centres on Leavitt’s great achievement.

Women with a scientific bent didn’t have it easy in those days: the turn of the 20th century, at Harvard College Observatory.

At the university, she and her fellow “computers” spent their days painstakingly cataloging what they saw in tiny photographs of the sky, reads a description of the show from the Chemainus Theatre Festival.

It was menial work for most, but Henrietta was inspired, the press release continues. As time passed, she got closer to making a discovery, closer to a certain male coworker, and farther from her sister — until a tragic event returned her to her family home. It was here, away from the limitations of the male-dominated science community, that her revolutionary idea about the Earth and other galaxies idea was freed.

The story opens more than her eyes, according to director Mark DuMez.

“Theatre aspires to examine relations and perspectives for the community and the individual. Through watching and playing in make-believe worlds, we can expand our sense of self, explore our relation to others, and discover new ideas,” he said. “This play asks a lot of questions and offers some surprising answers. In doing so, it invites us to consider great mysteries of light in darkness, love in life and asks: ‘How big is our sky today?’”

The cast of Silent Sky includes Emma Slipp playing Henrietta, Jay Clift playing the head astronomer’s apprentice Peter Shaw, and Andrea Cross playing Margaret, Henrietta’s home-body sister. Colleagues are played by Luisa Jojic as Annie Cannon, and Anita Wittenberg as Willamina Fleming.

The play is set in the early 20th century, where Henrietta’s most prominent experience took place. Using special sensory techniques, the production team – T. Erin Gruber, set and projection; Crystal Hanson, costume; Nico Rhodes, sound; Conor Moore, lighting; Jessica Schacht , stage management; and Shelby McCoy, apprentice – transport the audience from scientific workplace to family homestead, and more.

Tickets are available now. Matinee and evening shows, run Oct. 13 to Nov. 4. Call the box office at 1-800-565-7738, or at chemainustheatre.ca.

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