Theatre professor Molly Wiebe Faber begins her directorial debut with a bang as she and the talented members of the NW Theatre Department prepare to open their first Spring production – “Silent Sky.”
The play follows the story of Henrietta Leavitt, played by Tabitha Thatcher, a real-life woman known to history for her remarkable discoveries in the field of astronomy. Beginning in the grand Harvard Observatory, she unfolds the mysteries of love, friendship and our galaxies. Joining Henrietta in the observatory is the strict and confident Annie Cannon (Sierra Tumbleson), also reflecting a real woman in the industry known for her contributions to astronomy. Filling the gap and cutting the tension is the headstrong and witty Williamina Flemming (Rose Hoogers), a true Scottish woman known for her humble beginnings and her remarkable rising within the department. Other characters include the awkward love interest, Peter Shaw (Jack MacGregor), notable due to his flirting fails and the misadventures of his regular rounds throughout the observatory and Margaret Leavitt (Marissa Leraas), Henrietta’s sister and up and coming female composer in a man’s world of music. Together, this band of characters ask, argue and answer questions such as “What is the point of all of this,” “Just how big is the world outside of us,” “What is a legacy,” and many more.
Depicting our galaxy is a feat in itself. How does one create on a stage that is found in space? This was precisely the question that scenic designer and actor, Jack MacGregor, had to ask himself. Thankfully, most of his designs were intended to replicate the inside of the Harvard observatory. In fact, the furniture pieces found in these scenes were his favorite to create. He said, “My favorite set piece to build has been the desks. I like how they have their main purpose of being a desk, but the platform I made them on has a fun geometric twist that’s also able to hold crates and makes easy transitions. It was fun creating a piece that is practical and looks unique.” While he faced many challenges filling the roles of scene designer, actor and student, being on the other side of the process and now getting to sit back and admire his work, MacGregor said, “It’s been satisfying having my work come together with other designs to make the ambience for the show. I’ve had a lot of long days putting in the work of building the set and fine-tuning the details, but at the end of the day, I feel proud of the work I, and so many others have made”.
Just as MacGregor alludes to, there is so much more beyond the director, Wiebe Faber, the actors and himself as scenic designer, that is needed to produce this play. Others filling production roles include Drew Schmidt on lighting and projection design, Frances DeArmond on sound design, Melissa Thompson as a projection apprentice, Madison DenHerder on costume design, Emma Franken on hair and makeup design and so many other wonderfully talented hands stepping in to take over whatever work they can.
In addition to these production roles, there are also the hands that make the show run in real time! These hands include Hope Wallace and Liam Nibbelink on run-crew, Talea Errington as the assistant stage manager and Maddie Loats as the stage manager.
As the stage manager does for any production, Loats has a multitude of responsibilities ranging from leading rehearsal warm-ups to calling each cue as the show runs, which means she sees the show every time it runs. When asked what her favorite thing about the show is, Loats said, “I like that it has a nice balance of comedic, funny moments, but also beautiful and serious moments. My favorite thing is watching it start from nothing and become a beautiful something.”
“Silent Sky” opens Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. In the words of Maddie Loats, “Come see the show.”