SILENT SKY – Los Angeles Premiere Comes to International City Theatre in Long Beach

[ 0 ] August 6, 2017 |

Decades before Hidden Figures the Academy Award-nominated film made them famous, astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868-1921) and her female colleagues at the Harvard Observatory acted as “human computers,” using math and measurement to chart the skies.

Without ever being allowed to touch a telescope—a task prohibited to women at the turn of the 20th century—Leavitt discovered a method to measure the distances of faraway galaxies and paved the way for modern astronomy.

A celestial romance and true story of discovery, Silent Sky by acclaimed playwright Lauren Gunderson takes the stage Wednesday, August 23 through Sunday, September 10 at International City Theatre in Long Beach.

“In the play, the very real mathematical relationship discovered by Leavitt is explained not with numbers, but with notes,” Gunderson explained in an interview. “Henrietta’s sister, Margaret, is a pianist and just when Henrietta can’t stare at the tables of measurements describing her Cepheid variable stars any longer, she listens—then looks up—then sees/hears what she’s been searching for…a pattern. That moment is what made me write this play, because it could only work in a play. It’s theatrical, it’s musical, it’s not a moment of dialog, but a moment of overwhelm, everything changes in this moment.”

Working without recognition in a male-dominated field that refused to treat women as equals, Leavitt discovered more than 2,400 variable stars, about half of the known total in her day. By intense observation of a certain class of variable star, the cepheids, she discovered a direct correlation between the time it took a star to go from bright to dim, to how bright it actually was. Knowing this relationship helped other astronomers, including Edwin Hubble, make their own groundbreaking discoveries.

“We are still in the unfortunate rut of under-opportunity and under-representation for women in the sciences and tech,” Gunderson said. “This play aims to expose and challenge that angering trend with a true story of a woman who changed the course of astronomy and to the extent that astronomy defines us as a civilization, human life. She did it in a room with several other brilliant but underpaid, sequestered, unappreciated woman mathematicians who were not allowed to even use the telescopes that the men could.”

For tickets and more information, call 562.436.4610 or go to: internationalcitytheatre.org.

Category: General, Long Beach, Theatre

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