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A “luminously beautiful play”

Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky opens February 9 at WEPG

West End Players Guild’s 107th season rolls on with Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky. It is the inspiring true story of Henrietta Leavitt who, in the earliest days of the 20th century, triumphed over sexist prejudice and devastating personal hardship to reshape for all time our scientific understanding of our universe and our own place in it.

Ellie Schwetye returns to the West End stage to direct the play; she last directed Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia to open Season 106, a production that earned the 2017 St. Louis Theatre Circle award for best ensemble performance in a drama. Silent Sky’s cast features Rachel Tibbetts (recently nominated for two 2018 Theatre Circle awards) as Leavitt, along with Colleen Backer as Margaret Leavitt; Graham Emmons as Peter Shaw; Michelle Hand as Williamina Fleming; and Jamie Pitt as Annie Jump Cannon.

The play follows the career of astronomer Henrietta Leavitt from the time at the turn of the 20th century when she lands what she thought would be her “dream job” at the prestigious Harvard Observatory. Upon her arrival in Cambridge, however, she discovers that the Great Refractor telescope in the Observatory is off-limits to women. Her job is to be a “computer,” scanning photographic plates of astral images and cataloguing the thousands of stars discovered by telescopic observation. Original research is neither encouraged nor allowed.

Henrietta Leavitt refused to be intellectually shackled. “I have fundamental problems with the state of human knowledge,” she explains to her sister Margie. “Who are we? Why are we? Where are we?” she demands to know, and in the course of her career she discovers answers to those questions that set the science of astronomy on its ear.

“Leavitt’s story unfolds with a beauty and complexity worthy of the skies she mapped,” the Chicago Sun-Times noted in its review, calling the play “a gorgeous, inspiring drama that manages to convey both the vastness of an endless world and the subtlest of human emotions.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called Silent Sky a “luminously beautiful play… A lovingly-crafted period piece… Silent Sky is an intellectual epic told on a human scale.”

Silent Sky is WEPG’s first production of playwright Lauren Gunderson, whom American Theatre magazine’s annual national survey named America’s “most produced playwright” for the 2017-2018 season. Determined women overcoming obstacles to triumph in the scientific world are frequent subjects for Gunderson. As The New Yorker noted in a recent profile,

“A typical Gunderson protagonist resembles her author: smart, funny, collaborative, optimistic — a woman striving to expand the ranks of a male-dominated profession. … Relationships form a part of her characters’ arcs, but it’s their intellectual desires, their yearning to transform themselves and their world, that Gunderson foregrounds. Her plays are less likely to end in a kiss than in a beautiful explosion of computer data.”

Silent Sky will be performed seven times over two weekends at 8 p.m. Thursday (second week only), Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. All performances are in the theatre at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Boulevard in the Central West End. Free parking and the theatre entrance are at the rear of the church. Tickets to the show are on sale at here. Also now on sale are tickets to the final show of the 2017-18 season, Hansol Jung’s Cardboard Piano (Apr. 6-15).


Congratulations to our Theatre Circle Awards nominees

West End Players Guild snagged four 2018 Theatre Circle Award nominations, presented by theatre critics for outstanding work by professional theatre companies in our area.

Jason Meyers and Jared Sanz-Agero both received nominations as Outstanding Actor in a Comedy for their work in WEPG’s production of Marie Jones’s Stones in His Pockets, directed by Steve Callahan.

Our production of Oedipus Apparatus, created and directed by Lucy Cashion, was nominated for Outstanding New Play.

Kristin Cassidy‘s work on Oedipus Apparatus earned a nomination for Outstanding Design in a Play.

And…..

Congratulations to three award nominees whose work is on display at WEPG this Spring.

Rachel Tibbetts took two nominations, the first for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy in Midnight Company’s production of Little Thing, Big Thing, and the second for Outstanding Director of a Comedy, SATE’s production of First Impressions. Rachel stars as Henrietta Leavitt in WEPG’s production of Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky, February 9-18,

Linda Kennedy, nominated as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama for her work in New Jewish Theatre’s Intimate Apparel, directs the WEPG production of Hansel Jung’s Cardboard Piano, April 6-15.

Ellie Schwetye, nominated for Outstanding Sound Design in a Play for SATE’s production of First Impressions, directs our production of Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky, February 9-18.

The Theatre Circle awards will be presented March 26 at the Loretto-Hilton Center.