Creating conversation is the goal of Pacific University’s theater program. This fall, the theater department is creating conversation with their upcoming play “Silent Sky” by Lauren Gunderson. The five-member cast is rehearsing more than 18 hours a week in preparation for their showcase on Oct. 18-21.
“Silent Sky” depicts the life of little-known astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt who struggled to gain recognition in a field dominated by men during the early 20th century. Despite never being allowed to use the laboratory’s telescope, Leavitt and her colleagues mapped the sky and laid the foundation for future discovery in the field.
Theater Department Chair Ellen Margolis hopes “Silent Sky” will spark curiosity of the overlooked contributions of pioneers like Henrietta Leavitt. When choosing plays to perform, she thinks about the conversations she wants to inspire. Her goal is to funnel theater’s conversations into classrooms and expand their dialogue to the whole campus.
Margolis did exactly that with her play “Hide,” which was performed at Pacific last fall. A response to the political climate, “Hide” confronted conformity, denial, resilience and resistance. The play generated dialogue and discussion, and Margolis hopes to see the same outcome with “Silent Sky.”
But before she brings conversation to the whole campus, Margolis begins by bringing it to the cast. Reaching out to colleagues in the natural sciences, Margolis brought in faculty to educate the cast about the astronomy Leavitt discovered. By looking through telescopes and learning about astronomy, the cast understood the magnitude and importance of her discoveries and can now draw on that knowledge in its performance.
With around 30 theatre majors and minors, the program has a strong group of performers. Margolis calls this year and last year’s theater scholarship auditions the best prepared auditions she has ever seen. As a result, theater has a balance of strong underclassmen and upperclassmen who can design, write, and perform.
Theater’s final program of the fall semester is the 16th annual Autumn Choreographer’s Concert. Bringing in 3 guests choreographers to showcase their work, the Pacific Dance Ensemble will perform Nov.15-17 in Tom Miles theater.