Defying Gravity


Writers: Jane Anderson


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Drama, Comedy, Historical/Biographical
Contemporary, Fantasy/Imaginary, Simple/No Set, Multiple Settings
Time & Place
1986, Florida, Space, United States
Cast Size
Ideal for
College/University, Community Theatre, Diverse Cast, High School, Ensemble Cast, Professional Theatre, Regional Theatre, Small Cast, Star Vehicle Female
Casting Notes
Mostly female cast
Includes late teen, young adult, adult, mature adult, elderly characters


In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff. It was the first spaceflight disaster for NASA, all the more tragic because it was the first time a civilian, teacher Christa McAuliffe, was chosen to travel into space. Jane Anderson’s Defying Gravity combines the lives of the past and present into a philosophical journey around the Challenger disaster. Five-year-old Elizabeth doesn’t understand how or why her mother, a social studies teacher (based on McAuliffe), became part of the crew. The teacher engages her class in discussions of humankind’s attempts to reach God through art and architecture. Retired couple Betty and Ed travel across the country to see interesting things, including a shuttle launch. Donna tends the bar where NASA employees often hang out, including C.B., an engineer and her casual love interest. And overlooking all of these lives is Claude Monet, the French Impressionist painter seeking to discover God’s view of the world. Embedded in realism while also enjoying nonconventional drama, Defying Gravity recreates the circumstances of the people involved in the Challenger’s story and the dreams they had, before the shuttle (to quote Ronald Reagan) “slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

Lead Characters

Defying Gravity guide sections