Decades before the ‘hidden figures’ were made famous by the Academy Award nominated film, there was a woman named Henrietta Swan Leavitt (the wonderful Jennifer Cannon) who was an astronomer born in 1868. She and her female colleagues, Williamina Fleming (Jennifer Parsons) and Margaret Leavitt (Erin Anne Williams) worked at the Harvard Observatory as ‘human computers.’
These women used math and measurement to chart the skies. What made their task seem almost impossible was the fact that they weren’t even allowed to touch a telescope. I guess even so called ‘intelligent men’ in the turn of the century felt threatened by smart women. This mere inconvenience however didn’t stop Miss Leavitt to discover a method to measure the distances of faraway galxies and paved the way for modern astronomy.In fact it was Leavitt’s findings that led astronomers, including one named Edwin Hubble, to make their own groundbreaking discoveries. She was considered by Harvet as possessing the best mind at the Observatory.
‘Silent Sky’ written by acclaimed playwright Lauren Gunderson and directed by Todd Nielsen takes us into the mind of these three women who managed to do great things despite the fact that they worked without recognition in a field that refused to treat women as equals.
The play is filled with humor, romance, feminism and universe revealing science. It is filled with beautiful, captivating dialog and it’s musical but not in the normal sense. One of the most poetic thrilling moments is when a frustrated, burned out Henrietta hears music, thanks to her pianist sister Margaret (Erin Anne Williams)a and she listens, looks up, then sees/hears what she’s been searching for…a pattern. And history is made.
‘Silent Sky’ runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm until it closes on September 10th. Tickets are $47 on Thursdays and Fridays; $49 on Saturdays and Sundays. To purchase go to internationalCityTheatre,.or call 562-436-4610. The International City Theatre at Long Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 330 East Seaside Way in Long Beach. It’s definitely worth the trip.