There are stories that need to be told. This is one of them.
On April 9, 1959, NASA announced that seven Americans had been selected to fly a mission into space. Nicknamed the Mercury Seven, the group included John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Alan Shepherd and four other men who went on to define our perceptions of astronauts. But they weren’t the only ones. Thirteen women joined them, undergoing the same intensive battery of physical and psychological tests. One female aviator, Jerrie Cobb, surpassed her male colleagues on those fitness tests, finishing each of them first. She even held the 1959 world records for nonstop long-distance flight and the 1959 world light-plane speed record, but Jerrie Cobb was never afforded the opportunity to fly into space.
Written by Laurel Ollstein, They Promised Her the Moon unearths the true story of this courageous female pioneer and her struggle against the barriers that kept her grounded.
This Thursday, the play takes center stage in the Wean Theatre as the Blair Academy Players present their first performance of the year. This production also marks the 30th year that veteran English teachers Craig Evans and Kaye Evans have directed a theatrical production at Blair.
For Mr. Evans, with a wealth of experience as a theatre director, set designer and playwright, this particular piece holds a special place in his heart. The recommendation to stage this play came from a Blair alum, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics’ Director of Drama Adam Sampieri ’99, and Mr. Evans believes it is a story worth telling. “It’s still fun to tell good stories, and this is one of the best stories we’ve done.” Rarely do plays closely follow true events and They Promised Her the Moon tackles an important narrative in American history. It serves as a reminder, Mr. Evans says, “That we’ve come so far, and in some ways, still have so far to go.”
Leilah Elkholy ’24 takes on the lead role of aviator Jerrie Cobb and acknowledges the challenges that the cast faced in preparing this production, including staging complex NASA backdrops and getting into the mind of female pioneers during an era when there were few. Despite this, the cast has poured their hearts and souls into creating an unforgettable experience for the audience. Leilah’s hope is that attendees will walk away with the knowledge to not underestimate others based on perceptions and stereotypes.
Mr. Evans looks forward to the premiere with this particular cast and crew, describing them as “dynamic.” He couldn’t have asked for a better group of actors to kick off this year’s theatre season. “I still find it rewarding to work with high school actors who learn to prioritize the cast over themselves, setting aside their egos for the greater good. The passion and talent of these actors promises an electrifying performance this week.”
Join the Blair Academy Players as they bring this extraordinary story to life on stage when They Promised Her the Moon premieres on October 26, 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ Wean Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Requests may be emailed to Director Craig Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org.