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Lauren Gunderson may be the most-produced living American playwright, but she’s still not exactly a household name. Locally, though, we’re getting lots of chances to see her work. Last year, her plays The Revolutionists and Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley were produced at Tampa’s Stageworks and St. Pete’s American Stage respectively, and tonight American Stage opens Silent Sky, which made a strong impression when Tampa Rep staged it in 2016. Like many of her plays, Silent Sky centers on a courageous female character in a well-researched historic (and scientific) context: in this case, Henrietta Leavitt, whose discoveries at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s paved the way for our contemporary understanding of the cosmos — even though, as a woman, she wasn’t even allowed to touch the observatory’s telescope. She and her female colleagues were the original “hidden figures” — women whose calculations were indispensable but whose achievements were overshadowed by those of men in the field. The script is humane, funny, romantic — Leavitt is faced with a choice between love and career — and suffused with a sense of wonder about the universe that may have you looking a bit differently afterwards at the night sky.

Tonight’s general-admission pay-what-you-can preview is, unfortunately, sold out, and so is Friday’s opening. But you have plenty of other opportunities to see it: Thursday’s preview ($30 general admission) and performances Sat.-Sun. Nov. 23-24 and Wednesdays through Sundays Nov. 27-Dec. 22. 163 3rd St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-823-PLAY (7529), americanstage.org.

 

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