On January 28, 1985, Christa McAuliffe boarded the ill-fated launch of NASA’s Shuttle Challenger along with several other astronauts. The eyes of the nation and the world were on her, the first so-called teacher in space. But less than two minutes after launch, the Challenger shattered, killing everyone on board and catapulting her and her fellow astronauts into history.
McAuliffe has been memorialized with schools named after her, including one in Lowell, science centers, libraries, awards, honors, plays and films.
The latest is a new virtual event from History At Play, an immersive living history theater organization that chronicles the lives of influential — and sometimes forgotten — women who have made history.
Produced with the approval of her marriage and biological families, “Challenger: Soaring with Christa McAuliffe” will premiere as the first HAP virtual event of the year on January 28 – the 36th anniversary of the disaster.
McAuliffe’s legacy resonates with Judith Kalaora, founder/artistic director of HAP.
“Christa’s story is close to my heart. Her heritage is part of my upbringing, as I am from Framingham, where Christa spent her childhood and teenage years,” Kalaora said.
“I was surrounded by his influences,” she continued. “Frequently attending the McAuliffe branch of the public library, I recognized that she is a role model for the community.”
Kalaora researched the piece extensively, beginning by reading every book written about it, including her mother Grace Corrigan’s “A Journal for Christa”, which “became like a bible to me”.
She also visited the Challenger Learning Center at Framingham State and consulted with Colleen Previte and university staff.
“FSU maintains Christa’s archives, so I had access to many primary sources, including her Teacher in Space app,” she said.
“Listening to and watching his television interviews and the documentary Reach for the Stars allowed me to not only directly quote his rhetoric, but also to mimic his affect, speech patterns and body language. “she wrote to her mother throughout her career as an educator and I scrutinized every photo. I visited the street where she grew up, visited Camp Wabasso in New Hampshire, where she spent been as a Girl Scout, and I knelt on his grave,” Kalaora said.
A highlight was the meeting “with Christa’s sister who gave her her blessing and attended the opening show. Her approval was evident when she commented, “When we closed our eyes and listened, it was like Christa was in the room with us.” It was one of the biggest nods of approval I’ve ever had in my career,” Kalaora said.
Although she was not yet 2 years old at the time of the disaster, Kalaora “feels like a part of Christa’s spirit came to me on January 28, 1986, and I felt compelled to share her story ever since,” she said.
Tickets are available for this event for all ages at eventbee.com/v/challenger-soaring-with-christa-mcauliffe/event?eid=282306264#/tickets.
In the wings
TESTS: Theater at the Mount announces auditions for its upcoming production of “Something Rotten” on February 6 at 2 and 4 p.m. and February 7 at 7 p.m. by appointment only at the Mount Wachusett Community College Theater, 444 Green St., Gardner. Must be 16 or older and available for performances on April 22, 23, 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m. and May 1 at 2 p.m. Proof of full COVID vaccination and photo ID must be provided at the audition. The deadline to schedule an audition appointment is February 3. Email or call Professor Gail Steele at 978-630-9162 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment and for casting, rehearsal, and other show information.
TO LAUGH: The Players Ring in Portsmouth, NH provides plenty of laughs with its production of Mitch Albom’s “And the Winner Is” of “Tuesdays with Morrie” fame. Through Sunday, the play tells the comedic story of self-absorbed movie star Tyler Jones, who is eventually nominated for an Oscar but dies the day before the awards show. Driven by his bad luck and determined to know if he wins (despite his death), he negotiates with a celestial guardian to return to earth for the big night. Masks and proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required. For tickets, visit https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=127978.
Nancye Tuttle’s email is email@example.com.