Looking to the Stars

UWEC play Lunacy explores the forgotten history of women and space

Ashley Dziuk, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

    In her directorial debut at UW-Eau Claire, the new Director of Theatre Education, Jennifer Chapman, explores the forgotten history of women and space in the family friendly play Lunacy. The story is both humorous and depressing, as it’s a fictionalized account of what happened to the women who were denied opportunities in NASA’s space program and the consequences of their unfulfilled aspirations. On a basic level, the show communicates previously unknown information about the history of women who have been involved with NASA. It has interesting curriculum connections to the history of women who were involved with the space program and women’s history in general, including images of strong women in Greek mythology that became constellations. “I really like the play because it has a lot of space for interpretation,” Chapman said. “I had a lot of fun with the cast interpreting characters through song and dance.” Although it portrays the real history of women, it is also a surreal journey for a modern female astronaut as she discovers her own place in history after encountering Galileo’s daughter, Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, astronomer Caroline Herschel, the dancing Pleiades, a trio of cosmic courtesans, and the women pilots who participated in astronaut testing in the 1960s. Characters roll onto stage on rollerblades, others are disco dancing, and popular music from the 70s and 80s has been integrated into the show. “The important message is that things in our world and beyond that are unknowable are sometimes much more interesting than the things that are knowable,” Chapman said. “And that living with mystery is part of the human existence.”

    Lunacy • Nov, 6-9 and 12-15 • Riverside Theatre, Haas Fine Arts, UW-Eau Claire • 7:30pm every day except Nov. 9, when it shows at 1:30pm • $10 public, $8 seniors, $6 youth, $2.50 students, $8 faculty/staff