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Sept. 13, 2019 — Inspiring Maine premiere “The Women Who Mapped the Stars” to open USM Department of Theatre season


Press Contacts:
Danielle Vayenas, USM Director of Communications, 207-780-4150, 207-239-5715 (cell)

Maureen Puia, PR/Event Promotions Associate, 207-780-4200

USM Department of Theatre Contact:
Janice Gardner, Audience Services & Student Outreach Coordinator, 207-780-5289

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Inspiring Maine premiere “The Women Who Mapped the Stars” to open USM Department of Theatre season

The University of Southern Maine Department of Theatre launches their season dedicated to celebrating women with a Maine premiere by Boston-based playwright, Joyce Van Dyke. "The Women Who Mapped the Stars," originally produced by The Nora Theatre Company at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA, opens Friday, October 4 and runs through Sunday, October 13. All performances take place at the historic Russell Hall on the USM Gorham Campus. The show is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

The play tells the story of four courageous women of science and how they paved the way for the next generation of astronomers and astrophysicists, including Cambridge University trained scholar, Cecilia Payne. In this inspiring and time-bending story taken from true events, audiences experience the struggles and achievements of these remarkable women who, while only employed for half a man’s salary to analyze astronomical data at the Harvard College Observatory, still imagined the impossible and changed the way we see the universe and ourselves.

Boston playwright Joyce Van Dyke says her inspiration came from director Jessica Ernst, who would later direct the play’s world premiere at Central Square Theatre, “Ernst…came to me out of the blue one day and asked if I would be interested in writing a play on the subject of these five women. Like most people I had never heard of them. But as soon as I started to learn about the women, I fell in love with the subject myself and learning about the science and the women themselves inspired me all the way through the creative process.”

“There's a powerful wave of interest now in stories like this. People want to discover women whose accomplishments have been buried, ignored, or forgotten. A lot of women and girls are looking for role models, and a lot of men too, find it moving and exciting to discover the important work that these women did, and against the odds. For girls and women in science, particularly, they are heroes,” said Van Dyke. 

For director Sara Valentine, she was intrigued by the story when she learned about the women of the Harvard Observatory, “When I saw the show, I loved how it played with time to create a world of magical realism. These were magnificent women who had a passion for their field, and established new branches of astrophysics.”

She hopes audiences will find the play enlightening, “History is riddled with circumstances of the real story behind the story, and unfortunately, that means a lot of stories of great women behind the histories of great men. Those stories are coming out every day, and it is inspiring, and they need to be told. I hope this production promotes a dialogue around equity and equality,” said Valentine.

The student cast includes Campbell Gibson (Cecilia Payne), Clinton, ME; Jackie Condon (Williamina Fleming), Houlton, ME; Halsey Redman (Henrietta Leavitt), Tilton, NH; Alyssa Pearl-Ross (Antonia Maury), Dover-Foxcroft, ME; Meg Mayfield (Annie Jump Cannon), Marlborough, MA; Mikayla Clifford (U/S Antonia Maury & Henrietta Leavitt), Brewer, ME; Noli French (U/S Cecilia Payne), Gray, ME.

“The Women Who Mapped the Stars”
By Joyce Van Dyke, Directed by Sara Valentine
October 4 -13, 2019

Performances dates and times:
Evenings: October 4, 5, 11, 12 at 7:30 p.m., October 6 and 9 at 5:00 pm, and October 10 at 6:00 p.m.
Matinees: October 11 (student matinee) at 10:00 a.m. and October 13 at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets: $16 for adults, $12 for seniors, USM employees and alumni, $8 for students/youth. 
Special discount performances: Wednesday and Thursday, October 9 & 10, all tickets are $8.

School matinee: USM Department of Theatre offers a special school matinee on Friday, October 11 at 10:00 am for grades 4 and up. Contact Outreach Coordinator, Janice Gardner,, for more information about bringing your school or class to the school matinee,  

To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit USM Theatre online at, or call the USM Theatre Box Office at (207) 780-5151. For more information on USM’s Department of Theatre events and programs, click here.

Those needing special accommodations to participate fully in this program, contact Janice Gardner at (207)780-5289 or Hearing impaired: call USM's telex / TDD number (207)780-5646


Situated in Maine’s economic and cultural center, the University of Southern Maine (USM) is a public university with 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students taking courses online and at campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn. Known for its academic excellence, student focus and engagement with the community, USM provides students with hands-on experience that complements classroom learning and leads to employment opportunities in one of the nation’s most desirable places to live.