The current public interest in historical dramas, combined with America’s ever-present fascination with the stars and the push for more films featuring strong female characters has resulted in films like “Hidden Figures” and “First Man” drawing in millions at the box office. Beginning on Oct. 24, Fairfield University’s own acting troupe, Theatre Fairfield, will feed into this niche with its upcoming theatrical production of Laura Gunderson’s “Silent Sky.”
“Silent Sky” is a historical drama focusing on character Henrietta Leavitt (Emily Ramsey ‘20), a scientist who joins a group of women completing mathematical and scientific computations for renowned astronomer Peter Shaw (Carlin Fournier ’22) at Harvard Observatory. As Leavitt works with these women, they form a bond and Leavitt conducts her own research, analyzing both the stars and her own life in the midst of the women’s rights movement of the early 1900s.
“I personally think that ‘Silent Sky’ is a play for everyone,” explained Theatre Fairfield newcomer Fournier during a cast interview, “At its core, it’s a play about discovery and accomplishment as the audience follows Henrietta Leavitt through her life, ups and downs. The play itself doesn’t take itself too serious and with every dramatic moment there’s a heartwarming scene right around the corner.”
The student cast has been in rehearsals since the beginning of September. They’ve spent these weeks learning their lines and, in the case of Romina Rabines ’19 (playing Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming), perfecting the Scottish accent she needs for her role.
“I actually knew how to do a Scottish accent before auditioning because I’m a big fan of ‘Trainspotting,’ but after auditioning Dr. L [visual and performing arts professor Martha S. LoMonaco] realized she knew a genuine Scot, her yoga instructor. She got me in touch with him. It’s nothing official, but [my accent] has certainly gotten much better” said Rabines.
However, the cast has also been working to find their rhythm with one another while learning their lines and staging as this performance brings together seasoned Theatre Fairfield members, like Rabines and Ramsey, as well as newcomers like Fournier.
“I love my cast mates, and we have had such an incredible journey putting on this production,” continued Theatre Fairfield returner, Martha Hegley ’20, who will be performing the role of Annie Jump Cannon, “One moment that really pulled us together as a cast was when we had our first rehearsal without the scripts. We were able to work together to help each other and build upon the scenes so much.”
With only a five week turnover between casting and the first show, the cast and crew has not had a lot of time to put the production together. Especially since the primary theatre building, the Pepsico Theatre, is still out of commission from the flooding that took place early in the fall 2018 semester.
“It helps,” said Fournier, “that everyone in the company is hardworking. The cast, the stage management crew and especially our director Jake Hofmann. I’m immensely surprised on how much we can get done in just a week.”
Theatre Fairfield’s “Silent Sky,” directed by Jackob G. Hofmann, will debut on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. and continue with these 8 p.m. performances through Friday, Oct. 26. There will be further performances on Saturday, Oct. 27 and Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m.