Seconds of infamy: TWU drama department presents play on 1986 Challenger disaster

Langley, B.C. – The explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 stamped the memory of a generation with sorrow and shock. One of its victims was schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe who was to have been the first civilian in space. This tragedy formed the inspiration for Jane Anderson’s play, Defying Gravity, to be performed at Trinity Western University February 11th to 14th , 2004.

The play explores issues of grief as exemplified through the Challenger disaster, an expedition whose mission ended 73.3 seconds into flight. It tells the story of a character simply named “Teacher”, as she is remembered by her daughter Elizabeth who was only a child at the time.

“Thematically, the play asks a lot of questions about the motivations behind humanity’s attempts to conquer space,” says Angela Konrad, TWU drama professor and director of this production. “But at the core, it’s an uplifting, human story of a young woman’s attempts to come to terms with the devastation of her mother’s very public death.”

Langley resident Christy-Lynne Guthrie plays Teacher, a role that has required a great deal of research. “It’s been fascinating to learn more about the space program,” says Guthrie. “And it’s quite sobering to read about Christa McAuliffe. Playing a character based on an historical figure is a big responsibility.”

Another Langley resident, Charlene Crawford, takes on her first role at TWU as Betty, a retiree who travels to Florida with her husband to watch the Challenger launch. Betty and her husband Ed are the “regular people” in the play, who assume our role as mere bystanders unwittingly affected by the tragedy.

Abbotsford resident Colin Janz plays C.B., a mechanic on the NASA ground crew who feels responsible for the shuttle’s failure. “The question of fault is always central when systems fail,” says Janz. “It’s human nature to want to have someone to blame when things go wrong and in a disaster of this sort, some people inevitably blame themselves.”

Defying Gravity will run February 11th to 14th at 8:00pm. The theatre is found in Freedom Hall of the Robert N. Thompson building on the TWU campus (7600 Glover Road). All tickets are $5 at the door. For more information, contact Angela Konrad at angelak@twu.ca .

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,500 students this year. With a broad based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 38 major areas of study ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 13 other graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2015-07-20
Author: Keela Keeping