The Groton Public Library hosted an interactive performance called “Blast Off with Sally Ride” on July 24 at the Groton Memorial Park Pavilion. The presentation was held for the purpose of depicting the life of Sally Ride and teaching children, specifically girls, to be who you aspire to be, regardless of what others tell you you can or cannot be.
Sheryl Faye, a native of Amesbury, MA, put on the presentation, performing as Sally Ride. Faye runs her own business called “Sheryl Faye Presents Historical Women,” where she gives interactive performances where she dresses up and acts as famous women like Sally Ride, along with Helen Keller, Laura Ingalls Willder, Clara Barton, Abigail Adams, Anne Frank, Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Faye has been performing these presentations for 16 years. It was seven years ago when she decided to branch off and start her own business, traveling all over the country and performing at libraries, historical societies, senior centers and schools.
“I’ve always enjoyed history very much,” Faye said. “My mom has always been very into history, so I think I’ve always had a love and interest in history, and also a love of acting. That’s all I ever wanted to do. So it’s a nice way to combine both loves, and I think it’s really important because all the ladies I portray are very inspiring ladies. They contributed to the world, to history, in some way, shape or form.”
During her presentation of Sally Ride this past Wednesday, Faye recounted both Ride’s childhood and adulthood, showing how she became a famous scientist and astronaut. At certain points in the performance, Faye called up children in the audience to participate in science experiments, such as testing the sound frequencies in musical triangles.
“I think it’s really important to keep their messages alive and to inspire young children, whether it’s to read more about them, whether it’s to be more like them to hopefully make a difference,” she said.
Faye said she draws different forms of inspiration from all of the women she portrays. With Ride, she said she was amazed by the amount of courage Ride possessed in chasing a career that was not a typical profession for women at that time.
“She beat out over 8,000 people for one of six positions in a space program,” she said. “Obviously, she was incredibly intelligent…She never had an ego. She was always humble, and I admired that.”
Growing up, Anne Frank was one of Faye’s most inspirational figures.
“Anne Frank I’ve always, always been interested in,” she said. “I’m Jewish. I used to perform excerpts from her diary when I was younger…That was a real joy, having my own company knowing that, okay, I could perform her now in my way and my honor to her.”
When she performs as Ride, Faye emphasizes the fact that Ride was told on multiple occasions as a child by different people that she could not become a scientist because she was a girl. Faye said her goal of this presentation, along with the others, is to convey the message to children, specifically girls, that you can be whatever you aspire to be despite what others say you can or cannot be.
“Someone like Sally Ride and her story doesn’t take place that long ago,” she said. “It’s definitely thought that women couldn’t do certain professions, so I think it’s really important, and I think it’s an obligation to these ladies, too. That was something that Sally Ride was super passionate about later on in her life: creating the company Sally Ride Science and encouraging young children, encouraging young girls to be a scientist, be an engineer, be whatever you want to be.”
Faye also said she strives to inspire children to either read more about these women or to be more like them.
“Just encouraging reading, maybe changing the way they think towards one another,” she said. “Like my Anne Frank show focuses on tolerance and acceptance and not making assumptions. Changing the way children might be thinking and hoping to create a kinder world with world peace.”