There’s Nothing “Silent” about RVPs Stellar Production of “Silent Sky”

From the moment the marvelous “Harvard University Observatory” set came into view, the Ross Valley Players audience was as silent as the deep silent sky – as though mesmerized by the mysteries being discovered in the “girls department” at this pinnacle of the astronomical community – charting the light in every star, the declination, ascension, and magnitude of the stars they classified based on temperature.  Playwright Lauren Gunderson’s fascination with deep space and her knowledge of research into its stars were clearly in view.

This production is not to be missed! The story line takes place in Wisconsin and Cambridge, Massachusetts, centered on Astronomer/Mathematician Henrietta Leavitt (masterfully performed by Isabelle Grimm) during the years between 1910 and 1920. She was considered “the computer” of the group and would map the date and magnitude of light a star emitted. She would say female astronomers were “cleaning up the Universe for the men,” and that she specialized in what’s “out there – not what’s on the farm.”

Director Chloe Bronzan also brought out the significant talents of the other cast members: Pamela Ciochetti who performed admirably as the Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming (who discovered the Horsehead nebula); Rachel Kayhan, marvelous as the meticulous and blunt Annie Jump Cannon (a suffragist and American astronomer who coined the “Harvard Classification Scheme” – the first major attempt to organize and classify stars based on their temperatures and spectral types); Henrietta’s doting sister, the pianist Margaret Leavitt as wonderfully performed by Alicia Piemme Nelson; and Peter Warden, outstanding as Supervisor Peter Shaw – showing his love for Henrietta with expressions such as “she’s the brightest object in my day,” and “I deeply admire her mind and spirit.” With a bit of philosophy, Henrietta would say, “if hearts were stars, we’d all connect the damn dots!”

Further making the experience real for the audience was the excellent Set Design by Ron Krempetz and Set Construction by Michael Walraven which allowed believable access into the confines of the research area dominated by women with one taskmaster – Supervisor Peter Shaw.  Dialect Coach David Abrams enhanced the Irish brogue of Pamela Ciochetti, the Williamina Fleming character. Adding to this wonderful production were the period costumes as designed by Michael A. Berg; lighting by Designer Harrison Moya; Sound Design by Bruce Vieira; Properties by designer Marguerite Finney; Stage Management by Dianne Harrison; beautiful video projections by Video Consultant, Patrick Nims; and Choreography by Zoe Swenson Graham and Chloe Bronzan.

By Elle Alexa Simon
      with Flora Lynn Isaacson, Critic, San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle

Performances of Silent Sky” began January 17th and, as of this writing, will continue at the Barn Theater on Thursdays at 7pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; and Sunday matinees at 2pm through February 9th, 2020. There will be a Talkback on February 2nd, following the matinee, giving the audience an opportunity to ask questions of the Director and Cast.
For Tickets: go online to or call 800/838-9555.  Tickets for School Groups, call 415/456-9555 extension 3.  All performances take place at The Barn, home of the Ross Valley Players, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross.

Coming up next at ROSS VALLEY PLAYERS BARN will be The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, running March 6 through April 5, 2020, and directed by David Abrams.