It’s no easy task brining real-life historical events to life on stage. It’s even harder when that history is not a common one, giving the cast and crew the challenge of both educating audiences and engaging them. In Radium Girls, the upcoming Upper School fall play, students are ready for that challenge.
After months of rehearsing, the cast and crew are quite familiar with the story of the Radium Girls. “These were real people,” actor Tyler Reif ’24 says. “People thought these things. People said these things.” Learning the history behind the real-life female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from their jobs opened students’ eyes to the legal, medical, and societal battles women have historically faced. To develop an even deeper understanding of the topic, the cast met with D.W. Gregory, the playwright behind the show. Students asked questions about their characters, heard about the process of researching the show, and the playwright’s career.
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.
Not all characters in Radium Girls are ones you would want to root for. Justin White ’24 is tasked with playing a member of the radium company’s legal council and the inventor of the radium paint, two characters with complicated motivations. “It’s interesting to see how I can get into that headspace,” Justin states. “I think ‘what would Justin do if he was put into this situation? How would that effect his moral stance?'”
There is no shortage of creativity behind the scenes either. Kiernan Collins ’27, one of the show’s stage managers, has been thrilled to see the show come together. Whenever an actor is absent, Kiernan steps in, giving him an insight into how his work backstage connects to what actors experience in the spotlight. In the green room, several makeup artists and costumers find ways to enhance the story themselves. For example, glow-in-the-dark makeup has been incorporated into some actor’s looks, hinting at elements of the story visually.
It’s a really great story. Everyone does an amazing job, especially costumes and tech
-Avery Moss ’24