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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

‘Silent Sky’ to light up Starkville Community Theatre

Joy Cariño first entered the Starkville Community Theatre’s Playhouse on Main as a child. She first attended the company’s Saturday morning children’s theatre productions, but shortly after she became part of the cast. Her first production was about putting the wolf from “Little Red Riding Hood” on trial, and she was excited to find herself playing the judge.

“It was the first time I was on stage, and felt confident, and worked with so many different kids,” Cariño said. “The heart of theatre is collaboration—working with so many different people to make something beautiful, and here was the place I first learned all of that.”

This month, Cariño, a freshman majoring in english and math at Mississippi State University, will take the Starkville Community Theatre (SCT) stage for her first role as an adult in “Silent Sky,” written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Jo Durst. 

“Silent Sky” tells the true story of Henrietta Leavitt, a female astronomer working at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s. Leavitt, along with three other female astronomers, was responsible for discovering a new method for calculating the distance of stars. However, because she was a woman, Leavitt received no credit for her ideas at the time and was forced to accept her male boss staking claims on her discovery. 

Director Durst thinks the play is especially relevant today because of “the emphasis on STEM and pushing girls into those areas and saying ‘they’re not off-limits—they’re open to all, to everyone.’” 

Durst, a former MSU theatre professor who has been involved with the SCT for 15 years, said theatre is important for pushing boundaries.  

“[Our play selection committee] is looking towards bringing in a more diverse audience and more challenging plays,” Durst said. “We want to present more challenging concepts, ideas, and relationships to different characters than what you might expect to see.”

Each year, the SCT play selection committee presents their play choices to the general membership, which is made up of a fairly established group of patrons and volunteers, who then get to vote on the season line-up. Although plays are selected with the SCT’s established audience in mind, they are also working to present shows that will bring in a more diverse audience and volunteer base from the Starkville community as a whole. 

Michele Crescenzo, who plays a housekeeper-turned-astronomer in “Silent Sky,” said the theatre is a great place for bringing people together, a view echoed by many other SCT volunteers. 

“Working together for a common goal, with people of all different ethnicities and backgrounds, working together just to make something nice, to entertain people—that is the american way,” Crescenzo  said. “I mean it. When you’re in a cast with somebody and you rehearse every night, and nobody likes the person—there’s usually one— if that person goes on stage and makes a mistake, everybody backstage is like ‘oh no.’ You’re all rooting for each other.” 

Although one might assume the goal of the SCT is purely to provide Starkville with entertainment, it also aims to build a supportive and educational environment for all those involved. 

Abigail Voller, SCT president, insists this is really the underlying goal of theatre as whole. 

“You have a cast and they all have to work to together, and if they don’t the show is going to be horrible. They also have to understand their characters and their characters’ motivations, and to me that demonstrates an aspect of empathy,” SCT officer, Voller said. “Theatre in itself is always trying to reflect what’s going on in an effort to educate. It’s meant to reflect what’s going on so that way people can see it and consider it.”

In addition to reflecting the outside world by producing plays, the SCT also hosts other community events in response to the political climate. The most recent of these was The Ghostlight Project, which is part of a larger national move to uphold inclusion, compassion and diversity in the theatre. A “ghostlight” is a light that is always left on in a theatre for safety. 

On Jan. 19, community members gathered around the SCT’s ghostlight at the PlayHouse on Main, and shined their own lights in solidarity and acceptance of one another, no matter their racial, religious, or ethnic background, age, gender, or sexuality. 

“The idea is that we’re all welcome and all included,” Crescenzo, who attended the ceremony, said. “It’s a topic that’s been relevant after the election.”

Voller, whose first production with the SCT involved an invitation to join the play’s cast presented literally on a silver platter, said from that moment on she knew the SCT was a special group. She wants it to grow as a special group everyone can be involved with. 

“Our main goals for the next five years are fostering diversity and unity,” Voller said. “They seem like opposites but they work together. We just really want to build up our volunteership, and we want to be welcoming. We want to move beyond our space.”

The SCT’s production of “Silent Sky” will run from Feb. 14-18. Tickets can be purchased at the Playhouse on Main’s box office, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

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‘Silent Sky’ to light up Starkville Community Theatre