skip to main content

Caltech Theater's Mach 33 presents FIVE DEGREES ABOVE POLARIS by Karen Howes, directed by Adam Lustiak and Maggie Marion

Saturday, March 2, 2024
3:00pm to 4:30pm
Add to Cal


When a female astronomer from Nantucket attempts to get credit for a discovery that is rightfully hers, she is forced to oppose the dogma of the Catholic Church, confront the arrogance of Harvard's elite professors, and stave off the romantic advances of Italy's most charismatic revolutionary. Five Degrees Above Polaris is set in 1848 and is based on the true story of Maria Mitchell, an American astronomer who was the first woman elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the first female to be a professor of Astronomy at Vassar College.

Playwright Karen Howes' work has been produced across the country and published in several anthologies, including a dramatic writing textbook published by Macmillan Learning. As both a novelist and playwright, Karen's writing is recognized for blurring genres and creating heightened realities. She is best known for the award-winning plays Roadkill, The Gentleman's Pact, The 5564 to Toronto, and Day is a Dancer, for which she was a Susan Smith Blackburn nominee. Karen is also a two-time winner of MACH 33: The Festival of New Science-Driven Plays at Caltech, and a winner of the Maxim Mazumdar New Play Prize. Other awards and accolades include The Women's Playwright Initiative, Humanitas, Henley Rose, NJ Playwrights, Ashland, Women in Arts, and Playground LA. Her most gratifying work has come from playwriting projects that help at-risk communities, including for the William Inge Center under a Kennedy Center grant, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Virginia Avenue Project. For the screen, Karen had two films produced, and she was commissioned to write the book and lyrics for three musicals which all went on to full productions. Formerly, Karen has worn the hats of professor and investigative journalist. She has an MFA in writing and an undergraduate degree in Philosophy from The College of William and Mary. She feels incredibly fortunate to have 4 children, 3 cats, a supportive husband, healthy parents, and an Australian Shepherd puppy.

For more information, please contact Hyesung Park by phone at 626-808-2641 or by email at [email protected] or visit