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February 23, 2022

SVSU theatre production features talented cast, production crew

The Saginaw Valley State University theatre department will debut its first show of 2022, “Silent Sky,” this week. The play by Lauren Gunderson — American playwright, screenwriter and short story author — will run Wednesday-Saturday, Feb. 23-26 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 27 at 3:00 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The play is rated PG. In compliance with the university’s COVID-19 policy, masks/face coverings will be required.

Silent sky lead characters“Silent Sky,” the true story of 1900s astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when women’s ideas often were dismissed until men claimed credit for them.

The director — Peggy Mead-Finizio, SVSU assistant professor of theatre — said this production, which features strong female protagonists, is what the world needs right now.

“This play checks all the boxes — powerful women, characters having to make hard choices, discoveries and lovely relationship exploration. There are sibling relationships, love interests, personal challenges. These things bring the science into a human and feeling realm.”

The lead role of Henrietta will be played by Alyssa Yankee, a marketing and theatre major from Macomb.

In performing, Yankee enjoys the love and humor between the characters throughout the play and connecting with audiences.

“I love that it brings to light an unknown female figure that shaped so much of what we know about the universe today.”

Yankee received an Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship nomination for her portrayal of Christine Linde in SVSU’s production of “A Doll House.”

She plans to graduate in May 2022.

For this show, the production crew used new technology to help create a seamless experience for theatre goers. Open Sound Control, a computer networking protocol, is used to send commands to other playback software through ethernet to set off different effects, such as sound, lighting and audio cues, at the same time.

Lucas Inman, a theatre major from Saginaw, worked as the sound designer for this production.

To create a cohesive final product, Inman said communication between him and the lighting and projection designer was the “golden key.”

“We have been making sure we are all on the same page since day one and have included each other on our progress, changes and new ideas. It is like we are three co-designers trying to achieve one goal together.”

Jaden O’Berry, a theatre major from Flint, worked as lighting designer. She enjoys collaborating with her peers in a symbiotic relationship between the cast and crew.

“Working with Lucas for the past four years has been the most fulfilling and educational aspect of being here at SVSU. He is so intelligent and passionate, I become better just by bouncing ideas off of him. This has been made 100 times better with Abbey (Kuhn) and Peggy’s involvement, as they both have such beautiful creative eyes and vision that allows all our overall concepts to be recognized to fruition. It has been so incredibly lovely getting to work with these talented people. I owe everything I am now as a designer to the work we have been able to create together.”

Abbey Kuhns, a theatre major from Port Huron, worked as projection designer. She likened designing for shows to playing jazz.

“You and the other designers all have a unique way of storytelling and when it all comes together it’s beautiful. Working with my fellow designers on this production has cemented in my mind that I am where I want to be in life.”

One challenge in creating the projections was sourcing public domain media that will be projected on one of 10 projectors.

“I scoured archival sites, free stock footage and NASA’s public gallery for anything royalty-free. The entire production was made with public domain media,” Kuhns said.

Each lead designer is also working in the community to develop his or her skills:

  • Inman worked on the 2021 "Holidays at Lebowsky" show’s lighting design at the Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts in Owosso.
  • O’Berry is working as an intern at Midland Center for the Arts.

“My future career goals are to get into technical directing/managing. I have skills in all the technical fields in live entertainment. I am often wearing multiple hats in our theatre department to ensure lights, sound and video are moving along. It is what I enjoy the most when working in this field. Also, I get bored super easily, so sticking to just one field would get old quick for me. I hope to have the ability to manage multiple departments for a venue someday.”

“In this role, I am able to see more into the arts administration side of theatre and how exactly programming a season goes, especially when it comes to budgeting and ticket sales. For the upcoming show, “MLM is for Murder (Or, Your Side Hustle is Killing Us),” I am working on putting together the lobby display with another person with dramaturgical experience. It is such a fun and unique show about how multi-level marketing and pyramid schemes can have negative effects on some of those who take part in them. This experience is helping me become a more well-rounded theatre maker and creator, which I am so grateful for.”

  • Kuhns will work as an electrician for the Utah Festival of Opera and Musical Theatre’s summer season in Logan. She will be working on eight productions at the repertory theatre including “Carmen,” “She Loves Me” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

“I am very excited to work in Utah as an electrician this summer. I was the lead electrician for our last production, "Animal Farm," and it was one of the most comfort zone-stretching experiences I had ever done. I love theatre because it takes me out of my comfort zone and brings me to somewhere raw and honest. This is where art truly happens. When we are honest and vulnerable.”

For a behind-the-scenes look at "Silent Sky," watch this YouTube video.

Tickets for “Silent Sky” are $15 each and can be purchased either online or at the box office (two hours prior to an event). When tickets are purchased online, a link will be sent to your email to print or present as a mobile ticket.