Sample Art Paper on Silent Night by Lauren Gunderson

Background Information

Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky centers on women who have made groundbreaking contributions to humanity’s understanding of space. The main figure in the play is Henrietta S. Leavitt, an amateur astronomer at Harvard and the setting is at the beginning of the 20th century.  The play encompasses Henrietta discovering the Cepheid variables class of stars. This discovery paves way for more astronomical discoveries which are utilized by other seasoned astronomers albeit being made by a woman who was working without the requirement equipment. Henrietta and her group of women whom she was working with were not allowed to use the lab’s refracting telescopes or any special equipment. However, instead of wallowing in self-pity, the group of women used whatever they could lay their hands on to make their observations on space. This determined group of women would use glass plates to view and record various aspects of the sky over a couple of years. Various aspects of the play such as acting and vocal performance, singing, direction, sets and props, costumes, lighting among other aspects work together to make the production spectacular. However, from the perspective of the viewer, the play had both weaknesses and strengths.


Anne Justine D’Zmura directs the production exemplary; A South Coast Repertory production, the cast encompasses main actors such as Henrietta Leavitt whose role is played by Monette Magrath, Margaret Leavitt performed by Erin Cottrell Peter Shaw and Williamina Fleming performed by Amelia White. Indeed, the cast handles their positions well and hence fit into the storyline perfectly. For instance, Henrietta Leavitt is laid back and adamant and fits in her main role naturally hence giving the play a smooth flow. In this case, choosing the right cast can be the differentiating factor between a poor and an excellent play. It is noted that the cast was chosen to fit into the story line as naturally as it could be possible hence this gave the play’s storyline a smooth flow. However, the play’s storyline encompasses a warm hearted wit which helps to camouflage the conflicts experienced by the actors.

The vocal performance in the play is above average. While I could hear and understand what the actors were saying during calm moments, during arguments or moments of despair, in which the actors sputtered, it was hard to understand what they were saying, which presents a problem. In essence, the actors might not be understood by international audiences, especially those who the English language is not the first language. On the other hand, singing is executed effectively in the play. Lewis Flinn is credited for the original music. It helps in granting the play a comfortable nonchalant feel. Additionally, it is relaxing and well suited for such a movie.

The play, directed by Anne Justine D’Zmura, follows all the elements of play perfectly. It encompasses a well laid out plot, characters, setting and even symbolism. The scenery is well used and augers well with the nature of the play. Even though the play’s introductory scenes are heavy on the exposition of the characters, their growth is shown over the decades, as per the play’s setting. As such, it can be ascertained that the actors were appropriate for their roles and their stage pictures were interesting and were not unnecessarily blocking. Indeed, York Kennedyis the director of lighting. Kennedy is an astute director who has worked on numerous films and plays intheatres such as The Old Globe in San Diego, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Arena Stage, and the Yale Rep and American Conservatory Theatre in other theaters both in the US and Europe. As such, he is qualified to handle the lighting for plays and his efficiency is seen in the play’s lighting. The lighting ranges from dull to very bright concerning the time projected or the specific mood of the film. At times the lighting fades out or in synchronously with the development of the play. Certainly, the lighting of the play was commendably executed, which helped in making the play quite exciting in addition to giving it efficient life. It is should also e noted that the sound effects used in the play also align well with the lighting. For instance, in calm moments, there is low lighting and calm sounds while in moments of excitement, the lighting and the loudness of the sound effects go up considerably. This arrangement seems to bring the play into life and helps in keeping the audience engrossed in it, from its start-up to the end.

The costumes worn by the actors seem to fit the setting of the storyline perfectly. They were made by David Kay Mickelsen, a person who is known to be a perfectionist in costumes design in the film world. The costumes fit the characters’ roles and align well with the lighting of the play. As such, the lighting and the costumes define the mood in the whole play at different points, such as at the exposition or the fading out of the story. They reflect the nature of the actors and their level of income. They also display preferences, that bring variety to the play and reflects the real world, in which people have different preferences regarding dress codes. In essence, the costumes that are worn by actors in a play dictate how the play is received by the audience. Hence they play a great role in the setting up of the play. The Choreography of the play is yet another powerful aspect which is used to bring out the life in the play. The characters’ movements are synchronized with the development of the play. The stage manager of the play was Chrissy Church who did a good job in ensuring that the characters’ movements align with the storyline.

Lastly, the overall impact of the play on the viewer is profound. Undoubtedly, it brings to life the type of life in which the characters had in earlier days. The conflicts experienced by the characters help in creating a connection between the audience and the actors. The play also acts as an education tool since it shows that can achieve their dreams irrespective of the handles which they have to cross before attaining them. For instance, this fact is depicted by Henrietta and her female colleagues who can make their discoveries despite never being allowed to touch the lab’s observatory’s refracting telescope. In this case, the play can motivate the viewer to be willing to work with whatever is available until he/she achieves his/her dream. As such, I would rate the play as excellent and recommend it to everyone, especially people who need some motivation or are interested in outer space.