Archive for Wednesday, March 1, 2000

Defying Gravity’ revisits 1986 Challenger explosion

March 1, 2000

Star Novak was 5 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Her young mind knew something horrible had happened, but not the extent of the tragedy.

That is about the same age Baker University students were when the Challenger space shuttle exploded in 1986, and they have about the same type of memories.

Seven Baker students relive the events and emotions leading up to and following the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle in "Defying Gravity," a play written by Jane Anderson and directed by Novak. The play will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Darby-Hope Theatre in Parmenter Hall.

The story centers around the space shuttle explosion from different points of view. Characters include the teacher aboard the shuttle, Christa McAuliffe; her daughter; a NASA mechanic; a bartender who knew the shuttle crew; and a retired couple who decide to go watch the launch of the shuttle.

"It's an interesting story," Novak said. "It's about following your own dreams and knowing the risks. It's about suffering a great loss and coming back. It's about hope."

Claude Monet, the 19-century painter, appears out of his time to offer his take on the events.

"He arbitrarily appears and offers insight," Novak said of Monet. "I think he is there to show us there are many different ways to view the same scene."

Novak, an assistant in the university's theater department, makes her directing debut with "Defying Gravity." She chose the play based on her own interest in space and the characters.

"I enjoy space. I always followed the NASA program as a kid," she said. "It also appealed to me because of the characters. There are no leads, they are all important to the story."

Novak also studies theater at Baker, taking a directing class during the fall semester.

"I wanted to learn more about theater," she said. "If I was a typical student, it would be the culmination of all my theater courses."

The play is free to the public. However, the cast decided to give any donations to the Challenger Center, a science and technology resource for educators, founded by the families of the Challenger victims. Reservations are suggested; call 594-4509.

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