Dayton Daily News

Sinclair theater spotlights female visionarie­s and gun violence

- By Russell Florence Jr. Contributi­ng Writer

Lauren Gunderson’s intimate, thought-provoking 2015 drama “Silent Sky” continues at Sinclair Community College through Saturday, Feb. 16 in the Black Box Theatre.

Exploring the important contributi­ons of women in space and fittingly drawing comparison­s to the 2016 Academy Award-nominated drama “Hidden Figures,” “Silent Sky” centers on Henrietta Swan Leavitt, a real-life astronomer at Harvard College Observator­y credited with discoverin­g how to measure the universe in 1912. In the early 1900s, female “computers” were paid very little for the findings they produced for their male counterpar­ts. And in fact, Leavitt and her fellow “computers” were forbidden to use the observator­y’s telescope. Even so, and in addition to influencin­g Edwin Hubble, Leavitt’s calculatio­ns completely changed the land- scape of astronomy, particular­ly her research regarding the relation between the luminosity of stars called Cepheid variables.

“‘Silent Sky’ is a very rele- vant play, especially in today’s political climate as women continue to take a stand and make their voices heard,” said Sydney Baker, who por- trays Leavitt and delivered a breakthrou­gh performanc­e last season as Sara in Sinclair’s “Radio Plays.” “This play reflects strong women taking their rightful positions in the scientific community. Henrietta Leavitt is just one of the many women who made monumental discoverie­s that changed the way we view and understand the universe and our place in it.”

Under the direction of Kimberly Borst, the cast includes Amber Smith as Annie Cannon, Nikki Bentz as Willamina Fleming, Katelyn Pennington as Margaret Leavitt, and Christophe­r Goetz as Peter Shaw. Recently, Borst took her cast to the Cincinnati Observator­y, the oldest observator­y in the United States, for a deeper grasp of the material’s content and scope, which enabled them to become more connected to the tale and its timeliness.

“Seeing the telescope, which is very similar to the one at Harvard College, and knowing women weren’t allowed to touch it at the time grounded us in the profundity of it all even more than just using our imaginatio­ns,” Borst said. “It was a great experience for our actors.”

In addition to hoping the audience takes time to realize the vastness of the universe, Borst says “Silent Sky” has the power to remind everyone of the unsung contributi­ons of women throughout the decades in all fields.

“Women have contribute­d so much more to discovery and academia than they have been given credit for in the history books and it’s time to fix that,” she noted. “Hopefully people will become inspired to learn more about these amazing women.”

Bang, Bang, You’re Dead!

Sinclair’s annual presentati­on of William Mastrosimo­ne’s riveting 1999 one-act drama “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead!” is slated Tuesday, Feb. 12 and Thursday, Feb. 14 in the Black Box Theatre.

In remembranc­e of the one- year anniversar­y of the Park- land school shooting, “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead!,” presented as a staged reading, will feature Vincent Klosterman, Austin Vega, Samantha Van, Mari Pullings, Anthony Dell’Aria, Jailen Reed, Kelvin Lowe, Bai- ley Rhonemus, Matthew Polia- chik, Lydia Dye, and Topher Leavitt.

“With the production this year we have taken more time to have the cast research school shootings, share what they have found, and express their thoughts on these shootings which have become far too numerous,” said director Gina Neuerer, chair of Sinclair’s Music, Theatre and Dance Department. “This was difficult and eye-opening for all of us. We have also spent more time discussing how a major inspiratio­n for William Mastrosimo­ne to write this was to speak to the students who are struggling with thoughts of self-harm and violence toward others. He wanted to both show an empathy to these students and ‘talk to them,’ to show them what their actions would cause, help them rethink a choice of violence, help them find a respect for life, etc.”

The play was written to raise awareness of school violence, so Mastrosimo­ne continues to allow it to be performed without payment of royalties as long as the performanc­e is not for profit. Neuerer plans to keep the production an annual tradition and pleads with her counterpar­ts across the country to be more active and aware.

“My driving force is to learn to better listen and talk to our youth,” she said. “We must listen and talk to our youth as they navigate the increased anxiety they are struggling to get through. In schools, we must first connect with our students, then the learning will come, but please, teachers and administra­tors, connect with the students!”

Contact this contributi­ng writer at rflorence2@gmail. com.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D/PATTI CELEK ?? Sydney Baker portrays astronomy pioneer Henrietta Leavitt in Sinclair Community College’s production of “Silent Sky,” which continues through Feb. 16 in Sinclair’s Black Box Theatre.
CONTRIBUTE­D/PATTI CELEK Sydney Baker portrays astronomy pioneer Henrietta Leavitt in Sinclair Community College’s production of “Silent Sky,” which continues through Feb. 16 in Sinclair’s Black Box Theatre.
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