St. Michael’s theatre presents ‘Silent Sky’

Spring play allows for in-person seating for the first time in a year

By Finn McGillivray

News Editor

On Thursday, March 25 the Department of Fine Arts debuted their production of “Silent Sky”. The play, written by Lauren Gunderson, is based on the true story of Henrietta Leavitt, an American astronomer whose work at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s contributed to significant scientific breakthroughs in her field. Though she did not always receive credit due to the male-dominated nature of the scientific community at that time, it was in large part her discoveries that allowed us to understand the size of our universe.

In addition, to live streaming the event, a format that has become the norm for all live performances during the past year, the show was also open for in-person viewing to a limited number of members within the St. Michael’s community. Despite the masked actors and socially distanced audience, the show provided a refreshing taste of pre-pandemic normalcy for those in attendance.

“It’s really good I think for the students who are involved in the show to be able to have the feedback of a live audience,” said the show’s director John Devlin, professor of Fine Arts. He detailed some of the logistical challenges they overcame, including having to hold auditions online, as well as one of the actors being quarantined just weeks before the show’s opening.“It set us back a little bit but we took it in stride, and we were able to keep working forward,” he said. “We made lemonade.”

Benoit Fumeoux ’22, who was surprised by the precision of the acting on stage, described his impression of the performance. “I found it was cool that we could go in person because following theatre online is not exactly the same.” With regard to the KN95 masks dawned by the cast, he was surprised that they didn’t take away from the experience. “I noticed at the beginning because I was thinking it would be hard to speak with a mask, but I understood everything,” Fumeoux said.

“Normally you show your emotion through the face, but they showed the emotion differently, through their body language. It took nothing away from the play.”

The play’s lead Mckenzie Rowbotham ’24 described the novelty of the experience from her perspective as a performer. “Normally I’m never nervous before opening night, but I think the fact that I hadn’t performed live on stage in over a year contributed to that initial nervousness,” she said. She detailed the hurdles that masking and socially distancing created for the performers.

“I think because we practiced with the masks, they just sort of became a part of the costume for me, and thus a part of my character,” Rowbotham said. “There were so many times when I felt like there should be some sort of hug in a scene, and other actors felt it too, but we had to abstain in order to stay healthy.”

For students interested in attending an upcoming show in person, there will be two student-directed projects opening in McCarthy in the coming weeks. Limited in-person seating will be available if possible depending on COVID levels.