Directed by Kaanthi Pandhigunta
Q&A by Natalie Couch and Lauren West, Designed by Kaitlynn Gray
Inspired by dual passions for theater and science, senior Kaanthi Pandhigunta decided to direct the play “Silent Sky.” “Silent Sky” is a play about female astronomer Henrietta Leavitt and her dedication to the stars. Pandhigunta organized the student-run, Mudd-only production, and gave The Muddraker a behind- the-scenes look at the December production.
Q: When did the play open?
A: “Silent Sky” happen[ed] on Dec. 2 and 3 in the Drinkward Recital Hall. It [was] free, but there [were] fee-less tickets anyway since there [were] a limited number of seats.
Q: What inspired you to put on this play?
A: I was in a play called “Isaac’s Eye” my freshman year. It was, to my knowledge, the first student-led theater production at Harvey Mudd. It was super fun, and really nice because it was, in a way, made for Mudders. “Isaac’s Eye” was a fairly low time commitment compared to Pomona theater. I had also tried Pomona theater [in freshman year], but it was just too much work. [Pomona theater] was maybe four hours of rehearsal every day. “Isaac’s Eye” was a really good experience, and I made a lot of awesome friends through it. So, I wanted to continue that and create the opportunity for future Mudders to also participate in theater.
Q: Why did you choose “Silent Sky”?
A: I thought “Silent Sky” was a good play for Harvey Mudd because it’s a blend of science and the human side. It’s about female astronomers in the 1900s, and what they had to overcome to make a mark in their field.
Q: What were some challenges?
A: [One was] getting the HSA department to give us course credit for “Silent Sky.” They eventually did, and it was really nice of Prof. Fandell to do that, but we had to jump through a lot of hoops to get there. Now, a few of us are getting course credit, including the stage managers, the set designer, some of the dance choreographers, and me. Others are not doing it for credit. The difference is that people getting credit have to spend nine hours [each week on the play].
Q: What were the best parts of putting on the play?
A: The best part has been just seeing how talented everyone is. So many people have brought their talents to the play. For example, we have music composers who have composed beautiful pieces for the show, and it was like, “Oh my God, I didn’t even know you could do that.” And then we have our dance choreographers, who are creating some awesome dances, and our set designers and sound designers — they really know what they’re doing. And also obviously the actors. So it’s really awesome to see how talented everyone is.
Q: Do you think that someone will be inspired to carry on the mantle, like you did from “Isaac’s Eye”?
A: What inspired me to do “Silent Sky” was the people who put together the last production. So I really hope student-led theater will continue, and give Mudders opportunities in the arts, where we may not have the opportunity to participate at the other Claremont Colleges.
Q: In one sentence, tell Mudders why they should go see products such as “Silent Sky.”
A: Come see what talents your friends have to offer!