• The Crestiad

New play will debut at Cedar Crest College

Morgan Blickley


Cedar Crest College’s latest play, “Silent Sky,” will premiere on Thursday, March 26 at 7:00 p.m. in Samuel’s Theatre, located in Tompkins College Center. Shows will also be available on March 27 and March 28 at 7:00 p.m., as well as March 29 at 2:00 p.m.

“Silent Sky,” written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by JoAnn Wilchek Basist, M.Ed., an adjunct professor of theatre and a graduate of Cedar Crest, tells the true tale of Henrietta Leavitt, a female astronomer who works as a human “computer” for a male scientist at the Harvard Observatory in the early twentieth century. Forbidden to touch a telescope or produce her own hypotheses, Leavitt nevertheless spends her time estimating the distance between the stars and the Earth while navigating her familial obligations to her sister and romantic interest. The play grapples with historical issues that remain relevant to this day, like the continued inequality between men and women and the work-life balance with which many women still struggle.

According to Basist, the play “still speaks to that glass ceiling we women face. It still speaks to the fact that so many women are treated inappropriately in the workspace. I think in 2020, it’s a very timely piece.”

The overall theme of “Silent Sky” reflects Cedar Crest’s feminist attitude and the pioneering spirit that the college maintains to this day, especially since it arrives just before the hundredth anniversary of women’s right to vote.

Because the play is set in the early 1900s, “it really shows how women garnered their voice and how they were able to fight for the rights of other women,” Amanda Connell, a member of the play’s ensemble, says.

“Silent Sky” also represents Cedar Crest’s commitment to diversity in education through the message it tries to convey.

“When given the opportunity to share what we know, there should be no boundaries that hold us back,” Basist says regarding the play’s message, adding that gender, racial, and religious barriers have no place in our quest for knowledge and discovery. Measuring each word, she says, “It is simply the human condition that seeks to know.”

“Silent Sky” will likely appeal to students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, as well as women who may have experienced the issues that the play demonstrates.

Connell, who started her college career as a double major in biology and forensic science, says she took on the role in the play because “a story about some of the first women scientists was such an interesting show to be a part of, at Cedar Crest College especially.”

“Silent Sky” also fosters leadership by depicting the struggles and successes of strong, smart women in a time when women were discouraged from possessing either of those traits.

Through her words, writer Lauren Gunderson “shows us that there were brave, bright women who stepped out of that stereotype that was handed to them,” Basist adds. In the play, “the stars are another character, brilliant and pulsing. That is also what these women were. They were brilliant. They shined.”

“Silent Sky” serves to remind Cedar Crest students that they can shine, too.

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