Arena's Silent Sky Provides Drama and History in Collaboration with Literacy Alliance
Silent Sky tells the story of women who, because they had the temerity to be born in a man’s world, make scientific advancements without the credit they so richly deserved. The story focuses on Henrietta Leavitt and her colleagues and “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.” That synopsis comes courtesy of Arena Dinner Theatre which is collaborating with The Literary Alliance to present the Lauren Gunderson play for a limited run this weekend and next.
That partnership has been planned for some time, and it has finally come to fruition.
“This has actually been years in the making,” said Gloria Minnich, the director of Silent Sky. “Last spring Melinda Haines, who is the CEO of the Literacy Alliance, approached us about a virtual production of a play about literacy. When we presented the show virtually, it was a big success, and we were all pleased with how successful it was. There was an article about the success of the show, and the AAUW – which is the American Association of University Women – happened to see the article and told us the organization had a grant which could support another project.”
Based on that, Minnich and Haines met last summer to form a plan. After going through many scripts, looking for one which promoted literacy while providing a compelling stage production, they found the script for Silent Sky. Having secured that AAUW grant earlier this year, Arena Dinner Theatre and the Literacy Alliance moved forward quickly.
“It was a quick turnaround,” Minnich said. “We had a short amount of time, and there were other productions around this time so Arena was quickly becoming a repertory theatre.”
Minnich said that the science at the heart of the story provided a chance for her and the cast to pursue the drama of the story but also learn about the science and history at the heart of it. While there is much to admire, there is also room for despair. Annie Cannon, who developed the contemporary stellar classification system, is given little credit for her work. Rather than naming the system after her, it is merely called the Harvard Classification Scheme, essentially wiping her accomplishment from history. But Silent Sky rights that wrong, providing an important glimpse into what women have contributed to the study of astronomy.
With a small cast of five – four women and one man – Silent Sky opens the door to see the importance of women in science and history, and Arena Dinner Theatre is opening the door to the importance of women in the history of Fort Wayne as well.
“Arena is dedicating each table to women of significance in Fort Wayne,” Minnich said. “There will be a table for the Fort Wayne Daisies, Helene Foellinger, the women at Vera Bradley, Julie Inskeep. But it’ll also feature contemporary women like Sharon Tucker and Michelle Chambers.”
Silent Sky will run at Arena Dinner Theatre July 9 and July 15-16. Rather than featuring a full dinner with the performance, Silent Sky will provide a dessert service as well as a full cash bar. Doors open at 6:45 p.m., dessert will be served at 7:15, and the performance begins at 8 p.m. The cast of Silent Sky includes Rachel Dirig, Bella Hadley, David Felts, Jennifer Poiry Prough, and Jenn Rothenbush, and desserts will be provided by Hello Sunshine Bakery. Tickets are $35. For more information, visit arenadinnertheatre.org or fwliteracyalliance.org.