By Brad Avery
March 06. 2016 7:15PM
Judith Kalaora presented the life of Christa McAuliffe as part of the History at Play series on Sunday afternoon at the Historic Village Hall in Framingham. Here she portrays Christa’s career as a teacher.
FRAMINGHAM – From inventors to suffragettes, actress Judith Kalaora has portrayed many historic women in her educational one-woman performances. But on Sunday, she premiered her riskiest show to date when she took on the role of Christa McAuliffe at the Framingham Village Hall.
Kalaora, herself a Framingham native, admitted she was nervous and afraid before beginning her self-written show, “CHALLENGER: Soaring with Christa,” for an audience consisting largely of people who knew and remembered McAuliffe, the teacher and astronaut who has become an iconic piece of Framingham and American history.
Kalaora’s play comes 30 years after McAuliffe died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and coincides with the opening of the new Christa McAuliffe Branch Library building in Nobscot. In writing the show, Kalaora wanted to make sure the focus was on McAuliffe’s life and not her death, showcasing who she was as a person as she lived her childhood and college years in Framingham and her life as a teacher in Maryland and New Hampshire.
“When you’re portraying someone so close to people’s hearts you have an immense responsibility to uphold their memory in a way that represents who they were and what they were trying to achieve,” Kalaora said. “Even though it’s recent history, it’s old enough now and has to be revisited. This is an important woman and her death should not be what marks her legacy, it should be her life.”
“CHALLENGER” begins with McAuliffe as a 15-year-old Girl Scout and moves through her life in stages – from her politically active college years during the late ‘1960s to her time as an inner-city school teacher in Maryland and finally her months with NASA training to become the first teacher in space. Using multimedia, news clips and recordings of McAuliffe underline the most iconic moments of her story.
The show was well-received by the audience, many of whom were former classmates, teachers or friends of McAuliffe or her family.
“We went to church with her family, Christa was my daughter’s Girl Scout leader,” said Framingham resident Ceil Wohler. “It was very well done, very well researched.”
Others said the play was marvelous, although bittersweet. Former Framingham teacher Quent Sewell, who said he knew McAuliffe’s mother Grace Corrigan, called it fantastic and was taken with Kalaora’s performance.
“Not only did she present it so you believe she was Christa, but I learned things I didn’t know,” Sewell said.
It was important to premiere the show in Framingham, Kalaora said. With both a library and a middle school named for McAuliffe, Kalaora wants young kids to know more about the person behind the name.
“My goal is to ensure this wonderful person is not just remembered, but that she is known,” Kalaora said.
“CHALLENGER: Soaring with Christa” will play again at the Amazing Things Arts Center on April 3. Tickets are available at www.amazingthings.org. For more information on Kalaora’s one-woman shows, visit her website www.historyatplay.com.
Brad Avery can be reached at 508-626-4449 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BradAvery_MW.