Galactic visionary to bring life story to stage

Pioneer stargazer inspires scientists to shoot for stars


George Morin / The Advocate

Kelly Ground (right), director of “Silent Sky,” makes final alterations to Henrietta Leavitt’s (Clove Galilee) coat during a dress rehearsal in the Knox Center on Thursday.

By Nina Cestaro, Staff Writer

“Silent Sky” opens Thursday night in the Knox Center for the Performing Arts and will run through Saturday, with performances each night beginning at 8 p.m.

A preview will take place tonight at 8 p.m. for a discounted ticket price of $5, and there will be a matinee performance on Saturday at 2 p.m. For each performance taking place on or after Thursday, general admission is $15 per guest and $10 for students with a student ID.

Play director Kelly Ground based her decision to direct and produce “Silent Sky” in part because she was asking herself what would work in the constraints of the Knox Center. Her other influence is award-winning playwright and author of “Silent Sky” Lauren Gunderson, is an acquaintance of hers. Gunderson is based locally and teaches screenwriting in San Francisco, Ground said.

Vicky Kagawan-Zabarte, who plays the role of Leavitt’s sister Annie, was surprised to learn that her character “named more than 350,000 stars in the universe and classified them by their colors.”

In this play, we see Leavitt at her familial home with her sister near Harvard’s Observatory working with her associates to make astronomical discoveries, and with her supervisor, Peter, with whom she had a romantic episode.

The cast could not be a more congenial group of people who are seriously dedicated to their craft, Ground said.

Student Clove Galilee said she was inspired to audition for the lead in “Silent Sky” because of “the groundbreaking research on astronomy made by Leavitt. I am astounded at how versatile she was as a volunteer, mathematician, scientist and intellectual and how her work contributed to understanding how the universe works.”

Prior to Henrietta Leavitt’s work at Harvard Observatory, there was no Hubble Space Telescope, nor much information about how to count stars. Her innovative work on measuring the darkness or brightness of stars from telescopic photos and pairing them with their negatives gave the modern world of astronomy a new method, Ground said.

Hubble uses this same method today.

Ground said that each person will like this play for their own particular experience — “some might enjoy it for the possibilities and others for the science, but it really has something for just about everybody.”

Willamena is played by student Kaitlyn McCoy. McCoy has taken one astronomy class and said she loved it.

About being in “Silent Sky,” she said, “It’s more fun than it is time-consuming, and you learn a lot about yourself being part of a production like this.”

Adam Elder takes the only male role in the play: Peter.