Campus play review: Silent Sky

Space and Astronomy have always been interests of mine and I absolutely love hearing stories of strong women. As soon as I heard about the play Silent Sky, which focused on a boundary shattering female astronomer and was being produced right here on campus, I knew I just had to see it.  So, I got my ticket at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts to attend opening night and it did not disappoint.

Silent Sky, tells the fascinating true story of Henrietta Leavitt: a passionate astronomer who strives to answer the burning question: “Where do we fit in to the universe?”.  Henrietta’s ambition earns her a job at the Harvard Observatory, leading her to leave the comforts of her rural Wisconsin home in order to follow her dreams. 

Henrietta finds comradery among her colleagues as she works as a human ‘computer’, which was a job primarily held by intelligent women who compiled and compared data, before the machines we now know as computers were introduced or capable of such a feat. I was introduced to the term ‘human computers’ by the 2016 film Hidden Figures. Silent Sky takes place during the 1900's and addresses the Suffragette movement as well as other issues of the time, which I appreciate, seeing as without the suffragettes’ women of today might not even have the right to vote. The play focuses on astronomy and Henrietta’s struggles as she attempts to balance love, work, and family.

Jaidan Jaramillo, who played the lead, honestly had me in happy and hopeful tears with her heartfelt performance of Henrietta Leavitt. I also enjoyed the sibling bond shared between her and Jenna Ivey who played Margaret Leavitt, Henretta’s sister who prefers to remain grounded, both physically and in her beliefs. Jenna Ivey may also be seen as Eliza Doolittle, when the ASNMSU Center for the Arts welcomes My Fair Lady later this April.

The ‘behind the scenes’ of the theatre fascinates me as well: the lights, the music, the costumes, etc. In Silent Sky the lighting effects blended seamlessly with images of stars and galaxies taken by the Hubble telescope. The music and sound design created a mood that carried throughout the play. Costume designer, Juneice Robinson did a nice job capturing the 1900's look while taking chances to incorporate the theme of the cosmos in slight touches here and there.

After the play, on opening night, the cast had a ‘talk back’ where they took and answered questions from the audience. They had about a month of preparations and research for the play, which I thought was impressive. There were a few character interactions that, while fun, felt somewhat forced and during the talk back the cast acknowledged that this was due to a few of the roles having been created only for the play. To ensure some of the accuracy of their research, the cast and crew also teamed up with the Astronomy department here at NMSU, which, to me, sounds like an awesome school assignment. After the Saturday matinee there will be a chance to meet and talk to some of the astronomers from the Astronomy department.

Personally, I thought this was a very well thought out and put together play that had an overall hopeful theme. I encourage you, the readers, to see this play if you have the chance and form your own opinions.

Silent Sky was originally written by Lauren Gunderson and has been adapted and directed by Claudia Billings for New Mexico State University.

Tickets available at:

NMSU Theatre box office

Show times:

Friday 3/1 @7:30 p.m.

Saturday 3/2 @2p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Sunday 3/3 @2p.m.