When Henrietta Leavitt begins work at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s, she isn’t allowed to touch a telescope or express an original idea.
Play title: Silent Sky
Author (s): Lauren Gunderson
Publisher: Dramatist Play Service Inc.
Publication Date: 2015
Primary Discipline: Astronomy
Secondary Discipline: Physics
Henrietta Swan Leavitt – American astronomer who worked at the Harvard College Observatory. Her work examined photographic plates to measure the brightness of stars.
Annie Jump Cannon – Ameican astronomer who specialized in the classification of stellar spectra.
Williamina Fleming – Scottish astronomer who cataloged stars and is credited to discovering the Horsehead Nebula in 1888.
Edwin Hubble – American astronomer, known as one of the most influential astronomers of all time.
1 Man, 4 Women
Henrietta Swan Leaviett, Margaret Leavitt, Annie Jump Cannon, Williamina Fleming, Peter Shaw
Setting: Wisconsin, Harvard Uninversity Observatory, Cambridge, MA
Time Period: 1900-1920
Synopsis of Play: When Henrietta Leavitt begins work at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s, she isn’t allowed to touch a telescope or express an original idea. Instead, she joins a group of women “computers,” charting the stars for a renowned astronomer who calculates projects in “girl hours” and has no time for the women’s probing theories. As Henrietta, in her free time, attempts to measure the light and distance of stars, she must also take measure of her life on Earth, trying to balance her dedication to science with family obligations and the possibility of love. The true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. Social progress, like scientific progress, can be hard to see when one is trapped among earthly complications; Henrietta Leavitt and her female peers believe in both, and their dedication changed the way we understand both the heavens and Earth. (Dramatists Play Service Inc. Website)
First Performance Date: 2011
First Producer: South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, CA
Performance History: The play was commissioned and premiered by South Coast Repertory in 2011. Silent Sky was developed and produced by TheatreWorks, CA in 2014.
Entered by: Denise Gillman / Brooke Sanders