By Randi Bjornstad

Silent Sky, the last show of The Very Little Theatre’s 2023-24 season, opens June 14 and runs through June 30, 2024.

Perhaps the most arresting quality of this play is the fact that it is non-fiction, based on the life and experiences of astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, who despite her training at Radcliffe College was not allowed even to touch a telescope when she went to work at the Harvard (University) Observatory in the early 1900s.

Henrietta Leavitt (July 4, 1868-Dec. 12, 1921)

Nonetheless, Leavitt became the one who developed the means to measure the vast distances between Earth and faraway galaxies, completely changing mankind’s — and womankind’s — understanding of the nature and scale of the universe itself.

Her contribution — despite the fact that she and the other women at the observatory were considered nothing more than “human computers” — was so profound that Edwin Hubble, who used her discovery to further his own scientific theories, including the fact that the universe is expanding, believed that she should be awarded the Nobel Prize.

Leavitt eventually was, in fact, considered for the prize, which is not awarded posthumously, in 1925 until the Nobel Committee was informed that she had died of stomach cancer in 1921, at age 53.

VLT’s  Silent Sky

Cast members

The role of Henrietta Leavitt in the Very Little Theatre’s Silent Sky is shared by two actresses, Jennifer Appleby Chu and Martha Benson. Appleby Chu will be onstage June 14, 16, 22, 27, and 28, and Benson will perform the role on June 15, 21, 23, 29, and 30.

The other roles include Henrietta’s sister Margaret, played by Chelsea King, with actors David Landon, Tracy Brous, and Trish DeBaun taking the parts of Leavitt’s fellow scientists Peter Shaw, Annie Cannon, and Williamina Fleming.

When: 7:30 p.m. on June 14-15, 21-22, 27-29; 2 p.m. on June 16, 23, and 30

Where:  The Very Little Theatre, 2350 Hilyard St., Eugene

Tickets: $26, available online at or via the box office at 541-344-7751; theater lobby opens one hour before performances.