|Pizzo, Koss, Drexler, as unsung heroines|
It's a tale of unsung heroines finally getting their props, beautifully told in this exhilarating production.
First produced in 2011, Silent Sky was written by prolific American playwright Lauren Gunderson.
She structures her play around real-life astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who had a knack for mathematics and a deep hunger to know the vastness of the world, and the place of humanity within it.
Gunderson charts Henrietta's personal course through sexism and ridicule in an extraordinary age that produced the theories of Einstein and the rise of the suffragist movement, touchpoints conveyed with wit and grace in the JTC production by director Susan Myer Silton.
|Women's work: Harvard Observatory "harem" ca 1900|
But her dream job comes with some caveats. The female computers working for observatory director Edward Pickering, called his "harem," are glorified secretaries, cataloging the photographic glass plate images from the telescope they are never allowed to touch.
|Real-life Leavitt, Cannon, and Fleming|
And yet, Henrietta pioneers a theory of star luminosity as a way to measure its distance from Earth and find out how vast the universe really is. (Her work influenced Edwin Hubble, among others.)
All the women scientists in the play are historical personages, so it's a nice touch that the video playing in the lobby features photographs of the real Henrietta, Annie, and Williamina. Check it out while pondering this inspiring story of mapping out a life by charting the stars. (Read more)
(Photo, above, right: Henrietta Leavitt, 3rd from left, Williaming Fleming, standing, and Annie Cannon, far right.)