Playwright D.W. Gregory met with the cast and crew of Radium Girls–Beaver’s upcoming Upper School fall play–to discuss the show and her career. Gregory shared with students the inspiration behind various scenes, some of her favorite moments in the show, and how writing a play based on real events presents unique challenges as a storyteller.
After rehearsing Radium Girls for weeks, each student came to the conversation eager to learn more about their characters and the play itself. One student asked about the ending of the show, stating that it had made an impact on them. Another asked about the process of researching the show. Gregory shed light on how researching the history of the real-life radium girls–female factory workers that contracted radium poisoning from painting radium dials in the 1920s–was a challenge given the lack of first-person accounts.
I was captivated by it and wanted to know more about the women… I set out to write the play thinking I was going to come across a lot of first person material… but I couldn’t find anything like that.
Gregory offered up no easy answers to many long-held questions about Radium Girls. Instead, Gregory challenged each student to dig deeper into the text and find the answers for themselves. In one instance, a question about a character’s use of a prop led to a longer discussion about how playwrights hide clues through the structure, symbolism, and subtext of their stories. A question about the ending of the show revealed that the audience’s interpretation of a scene is often just as important as the author’s, giving more agency to each actor’s unique characterization.
Students walked away from the meeting with a deeper understanding of not only Radium Girls, but also how to deconstruct a play and discover deeper meaning. You can see Radium Girls at Beaver on November 9, 10, and 11 at 7:00pm. Ticket sales will be open the week of the show.
More about the show: In 1926, radium was a miracle cure, Madame Curie an international celebrity, and luminous watches the latest rage—until the girls who painted them began to fall ill with a mysterious disease. Inspired by a true story, Radium Girls traces the efforts of Grace Fryer, a dial painter, as she fights for her day in court. As the case goes on, Grace finds herself battling not just with the U.S. Radium Corporation, but with her own family and friends, who fear that her campaign for justice will backfire. Written with warmth and humor, Radium Girls is a fast-moving, highly theatrical ensemble piece. Called a “powerful” and “engrossing” drama by critics, Radium Girls offers a wry, unflinching look at the peculiarly American obsessions with health, wealth, and the commercialization of science.