Possum Point Players' new outdoor stage started with a hopeful rainbow, then became furnished as a Pennsylvania country house sunroom, and has now transitioned into a look into the vastness of the stars in the sky that wraps around the earth and stage.
Based on the life of pioneering female astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, “Silent Sky” opens Friday, June 4, outdoors under the night sky at Possum Hall.
"Silent Sky" will be performed Friday to Sunday, June 4 to 6 and 11 to 13. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday shows are at a special early evening time of 6 p.m.
To purchase tickets, go to possumpointplayers.org or call 302-856-4560. All seats are reserved and tickets are $22, or $20 for senior citizens and students. The later start time for Sunday shows is to allow for cooler temperatures for the audience. Seating and other COVID-19 related protocols will be updated to reflect current state guidance at show times.
The story of a 19th-century woman, "Silent Sky" follows Leavitt as she explores not just the enormity of the starry night, but also the place of women in society and in professional life during a time of immense scientific and personal discoveries. Music and math and human emotions fill the stage as Henrietta and her female peers change the way humans understand both the heavens and the earth.
Leavitt and her dedicated, determined work colleagues, Annie Jump Cannon and Williamina Fleming, were in a minority in the field of astronomy in the 1900s. Hired as "human computers," their work was to study and map stars that only men were allowed to photograph. At that time, women were not allowed to operate telescopes. Even so, Leavitt was able to record changes in movement and brightness that led to discoveries that had profound and lasting impacts on astronomy.
Her early death at age 53 from stomach cancer was seen as a tragedy by her colleagues for reasons that went beyond her scientific achievements. Her colleague Solon I. Bailey wrote in her obituary, “She had the happy, joyful, faculty of appreciating all that was worthy and lovable in others, and was possessed of a nature so full of sunshine that, to her, all of life became beautiful and full of meaning."
Director John Hulse said, "This is such a beautiful, important story to keep alive. The contributions of women in history have been hidden for too long. As we try to show our young girls that they can do and achieve great things in science and math, the story of Henrietta Leavitt and her discoveries serves as a model for generations to come.”
Leavitt was ahead of her time in the field of astronomy, but she was an extremely knowledgeable and determined worker at Harvard University, sometimes to the point of straining relationships with Cannon and Gleming, and even with her sister Margaret and the man who loved her, Peter Shaw.
Portraying Leavitt, Susannah Griffin said, "Henrietta Leavitt is the role of a lifetime for any actor. As a woman, feminist, science geek and concerned citizen of our planet, Henrietta's message about our place in the big, big, big picture is even more relevant today than when she lived. I am honored to step into her shoes and only hope I do her and the playwright justice."
Hulse and Griffin are both from Rehoboth Beach. Seaford resident Elvira Panico plays Annie Jump Cannon, Gina Shuck of Dover is Williamina Fleming, Long Neck resident Ashlie Workman is Margaret Leavitt, and Steven Dow of Felton plays Peter Shaw.
“Silent Sky” is produced through special arrangement with Concord Theatricals, Samuel French.