‘These Shining Lives’ sheds light on the Radium Girls of the 1920s
In recognition of Women’s History Month, The Naples Players present Melanie Marnich’s historical drama, “These Shining Lives,” March 22-April 15 in the Tobye Studio at the Sugden Community Theatre. Jessica Walck directs.
Set in the 1920s at the factory Radium Dial on the outskirts of Chicago, the play is inspired by the true story of the young women, now remembered as The Radium Girls, who were poisoned by the luminous paint they applied to numbers on the faces of clocks and watches. The uplifting but ominous story chronicles the strength and determination of women considered expendable in their day.
The story follows Catherine (Jamielynn Bucci), a young mother who is happily married to her ironworker husband Tom (Jesse Hughes). Catherine opens the play with the lines that are both hopeful and foreboding: “This isn’t a fairy tale, though it starts like one. It’s not a tragedy, though it ends like one.”
Catherine takes a job in a local watch factory to help make ends meet at home and meets Pearl (Amy Hughes), the incessant jokester; Frances (Katherine Oni), the moral backbone; and sharp-tongued Charlotte (Jasmine Vizena), the brutally honest one of the group. As the women happily paint watch dials with radium, sharpening the point of their brushes between their lips to accurately apply the radium to the dials, they become the best of friends.
When they start to notice the unusual effects of working with radium, the women are quickly reassured by the factory foreman Mr. Reed (Mark Vanagas) that radium is in no way harmful and might in fact have health benefits. And when they begin to succumb to the devastating effects of radium, the company refuses to acknowledge the issue and begins to systematically fire them when their illnesses interfere with their work. Though critically ill, the women choose to stand up and fight for justice. These women and their strength still shine brightly today and their resilient efforts for justice set in motion workplace safety standards and worker’s compensation, introduced to protect future generations. ¦
‘These Shining Lives’
>> Who: The Naples Players
>> When: March 22-April 15
>> Where: The Tobye Studio at the Sugden Community Theatre
>> Tickets: $30 ($10 for students)
>> Info: 263-7990 or www.naplesplayers.org