This past weekend, the Wilmington College Theatre Department presented a production of “Radium Girls” in the Hugh Heiland Theater. The play highlighted a time in the 1920s in which dangerous radium was considered to be a miracle substance safe for everyday use and even capable of curing cancer due to its ability to shrink tumors.
The play centers on the “Radium Girls,” a group of female factory workers who worked for the US Radium Corporation. These workers painted watch dials with a radium-based luminous paint used by soldiers during World War I. Eventually, the workers developed strange illnesses that were caused by the radium. The US Radium Corporation, however, did not want to accept responsibility, and thus did not want to compensate the workers. This caused the Radium Girls to sue the company, bringing about lengthy lawsuits, media coverage, and ultimately the issue of radium poisoning to light.
The factory workers that the play features are Grace Fryer, Kathryn Schaub, and Irene Rudolph, played by Riley Gatlin, Jessica Fair, and Brittany Barnett respectively.
“The play did the story justice, and it really was a landmark case that sparked major reform in the environment people worked in. It sucks, but if these girls hadn’t gone through what they did, we wouldn’t have the regulations we do today,” stated Ashlynn Simon, a student at Wilmington College who was an audience member.
Other members of the cast included: Gage Clemens, Jenna Fawcett, Layne Frederick, Cecelia Hunt, Nic Keller, Tristan Moore, Kendra Nelson, Logan Perkins, Ariana Ricardi, Nina Roberts, Abe Werle, and Joshua Woodward.
“I really enjoyed the production. It was a very unique performance, and also a very important story about safety regulations in the workplace,” said Nick Wiget, an audience member and instructor of communication arts at the college.
The production staff included: Wynn Alexander, Becky Haines, Steven Haines, Layne Frederick, Maya Wahrhaftig, Linda Mead, Ashleigh Wellman, Sarah Bender, Jessica Fair, Nic Keller, Matt Stroud, and Emily Williams.
Wiget also went on to say how there are still a lot products in the world today that we seem to trust blindly, even after we have been through several cases of substances being thought healthy only to find out later how dangerous they are — cigarettes being one good example.
The play began rehearsals on Feb. 12 upon the announcement of the cast list. From there, the cast rehearsed diligently for about two months while simultaneously the set and technical elements were assembled.
Becky Haines, the theater technician and lighting designer for the play, discussed how the story of “Radium Girls” is relevant today; she described the play’s overall theme of money driving the outcome of many things in the world around us, as exemplified by the medical market and the high cost for life-saving medications.