Exploring the universe was a men-only journey for many years, whether behind the telescope or in a spaceship. In OTA’s latest show “Silent Sky,” however, the final frontier opens to women as well.
Ginny Holladay Jessee performs on the community theater’s stage for the first time as Henrietta Leavitt, a historical Harvard astronomer, in the early 1900s where she must overcome societal norms while uncovering the mysteries of space.
“It appeals to a sense of wonder,” Holladay Jessee said. “It celebrates what we can accomplish when we focus outside of ourselves.”
The show runs 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 15-16, 22-23, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, 24. A Pay-What-You-Will show begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, while Sundays feature a “Talkback” with cast and crew after the show.
Holladay Jessee, a theater graduate, said “Silent Sky” is her favorite play right now after seeing it two times and reading it several times in recent years.
“I’ve found from digging deeper while portraying her, she’s a huge nerd about astronomy,” she said.
Holladay Jessee, a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, fantasy, science fiction and pop culture, said the way Leavitt speaks about astronomy is how she speaks about her favorite subjects, too.
But as Leavitt and her coworkers talk astronomy on stage, the cast and crew say you won’t be lost in space.
“That’s the mastery of writing (by playwright Lauren Gunderson) — she introduces you to a world of astronomy in a digestible way,” Holladay Jessee said.
“Also you follow (Leavitt’s) journey … we explore how big or small we feel in a massive universe.”
Director Josh Sutcliffe said Leavitt helped pave the way for other astronomers by discovering how to measure the distance between stars through their pulses.
The play has jargon that is scientifically accurate, he said, but actors don’t overcomplicate conversations as it’s more about the “roller coaster of her life around all that.”
Cast and crew say one major focal point of “Silent Sky” is equality while another is bringing faith and science together.
“Faith isn’t necessarily just about God,” Holladay Jessee said.
In letter exchanges between her sister Margaret (Emma Jane Garcia), Sutcliffe said Garcia represents the norm of the time for women.
“Lauren Gunderson seems to have separated that (faith vs. science) aspect into two different characters,” Sutcliffe said. “Rather than showing inner conflict, she shows some conflict between (Leavitt) and her sister. It’s scientific discovery between faith, and pursuit of dreams versus family obligations.”
Holladay Jessee said one line to her sister reads: “I just have a different faith in grand observation.”
“Silent Sky” also stars Tia Stephens as Annie Cannon, Marissa Wilson as Williamina Fleming and Matt Forrest as Peter Shaw.
As the play came together, Sutcliffe said each team member contributed and created their own thing to the play process.
“All I’m doing is providing a creative space for people to do their thing,” he said.
“The one thing I’ll pat myself on the back for is I stay out of their way.”
Holladay Jessee said her first time with community theater has been refreshing after acting in Seattle and Jackson, Mississippi.
“With all volunteers, it guarantees everyone wants to be involved,” she said. “There’s a good emotional culture around it. I’ve been getting to know the art community through OTA.”
She said the play is a “visual treat,” too. Sutcliffe said he’s asked a lot of the show’s designers.
“They’ve all had to work so hard to put together a truly professional experience,” he said. “It really sets the bar really high for what community theater can be.”
“Silent Sky” tickets cost $18, $16 for OTA members and $12 for students with school ID.
For advance tickets, visit the box office, 414 N. Sequim Ave., from 1-5 p.m., Monday-Friday, or go online to www.OlympicTheatreArts.org. For more information, call 360-683-7326.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.