Newcomer director team debuts with “Silent Sky”


Photo by Jordyn Hronec

The cast of Pinnacle Productions’ “Silent Sky” stand and face the audience during the last scene of the show.

Written By Mitchell Drake, Staff Writer

Last weekend, Pinnacle Productions presented the Lauren Gunderson play “Silent Sky” in the Lawrence Hall Ballroom.

The play details the story of Henrietta Leavitt, an aspiring astronomer that joined an all-female group of “human computers” that computed data to be used in astronomical theories and studies. The play looks at Leavitt’s struggle to juggle work, passion, family and love, while pursuing a career that was hardly attainable by women in the early 1900s.

The play featured thematic lighting to accentuate stars and filmed video segments along with the stage actors. It also featured musical accompaniment by composer and sound designer Peter Brucker, which the playbill boasts as his “largest score to date.”

The production was joint-directed by Jordan Beltz and David McMaines, members of Pinnacle Productions, as their directorial debuts. The student-run theatre company purportedly receives minimal budgeting as a club, and acts as a way for students to get involved in theatre outside of COPA productions. Pinnacle Productions allows entry for any major and usually performs 3-4 main stage performances a semester.

“Pop-up shows and cabarets give us an opportunity to be flexible,” McMaines said.

Beltz said she chose “Silent Sky” to direct because she is a fan of Gunderson’s works, and is an avid fan of sci-fi and feminist literature.

“It had some really interesting ideas – using lighting to personify the stars,” Beltz said.

Beltz was also very excited to combine the skills of a stage manager, cinematographer and film editor into a stage play.

“I’ve always wanted to get a film director, and in ‘Silent Sky’ we tried to do everything a film student would do,” Beltz said.

They detailed that the production took a week of technical rehearsal, a week of filming and then two weeks of rehearsal before spring break with the combined efforts of at least 15 people, an abnormally high number when compared to other Pinnacle productions, according to the duo.

The tandem described that joint directorial work is like “putting out a list of fires when they start” and that having a second person to put them out is a “big help.”

Allie Duncan, a theatre major from Shenandoah University, came to see her friend Sabina May, who played Willamina Flemming in the play, and enjoyed the show. She praised how the story was similar to the 2016 film “Hidden Figures” with its focus on important and unknown women in the field of astronomy and science.

“I really like how it touches on the hardships that women had to face in the 1900s, and not just in the workplace,” Duncan said.

Junior cinema production major Kelly Tran praised the use of interactivity of lighting and was “a big fan” of the score. She also praised how the acting allowed for “magic” moments of light-hearted quirkiness that still existed to make the show feel alive.

“Jordan Beltz’ directorial debut has a reputation as one of the most respected – a great transition from acting to directing,” Tran said.