'The Sun's Disappearing Act' Explores the Stories and Myths of Solar Eclipses

Jul 20, 2017

On August 21st, parts of the United States will experience a total solar eclipse. It’s the first time in a century that the path of totality will be visible from the west coast to the east. Milwaukee isn’t in the totality path but it will still be darker than normal as the sun will be 86% eclipsed.

As might be expected, astronomy contributor Jean Creighton is excited about this rare astronomical event. She and her staff at the Manfred Olson Planetarium have been preparing special programming leading up to the actual eclipse, which begins on July 21st.

The origin of the play goes back to an ongoing discussion between Creighton and Robin Mello, a professor in UWM’s Theatre Department, surrounding a singular question: “What could we do that would be really out of the ordinary,” Creighton explains.  

The final product includes two casts of three UWM students, none of whom are actually studying astronomy. One of the students, Sam Gallagher, says his initial interest came from an introductory astronomy class.

“We took a field trip across the hall to the planetarium and I was like ‘This is so cool!’ And they were looking for a website developer and I study information science and technology so it was the perfect fit," says Gallagher. 

One of the play’s story tellers, Elisabeth Markman, admits her involvement has peaked her interest in astronomy.

“I’ve always wondered what the constellations were and now I know more than I ever have in my life about anything star related," she says. "It’s crazy how much you can learn in such a short period of time.”

This combination of science and theater speaks to the UWM liberal arts education, which, in its purest form, is a constant mixture of science and art based on an understanding that everyone has something to teach each other. Creighton exclaims that she’s “converting them slowly.”

The play focuses on the stories and mythology behind solar eclipses. It’s called The Sun’s Disappearing Act, and will run through August 18th.