Every spring, Wilmington College puts on their annual play. Last year, Wynn Alexander directed “Early Dark,” a story about a young southern woman and man, the passion (or lack thereof) between the two, and the complications of their relationship. The play was very well received by its audiences, mostly due to the fresh faces that entered the Theatre Department.
This year, Alexander has decided to direct “Radium Girls,” a smash hit in high schools and colleges nationwide as well as a successful documentary on Amazon Video. The show brings attention to the atrocious acts of the 1920s that radium factories performed. They would employ young women to paint watch dials with radium-based paint that glowed in the dark. However, radium is radioactive, and many people were injured or killed – all while the companies did nothing.
The play is originally written by D.W. Gregory. Dramatic Publishing, the company that licenses the rights to theatre companies, describes the synopsis as follows: “In 1926, radium was a miracle cure, Madame Curie was 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.”
In an interview with Alexander, the director of the play at Wilmington College this spring, he said, “My goal every year is to make the plays academically challenging and have some connection to the current status of the world around us. I want the students to see the plays and then see the injustices in our society and hopefully grow to overcome them.”
A play that is both fun and informative is Alexander’s ultimate goal. He hopes for students to draw connections between the play ‘Radium Girls’ and perhaps Flint, Michigan and other abhorrent injustices in the world today.
When asked about how he felt about the play, Alexander said, “I feel this show has a lot of great characters. When I read it, I enjoyed the Radium Girls parts, Grace, and Arthur Roeder, the employer. This play has some fantastic bad guys, and I can’t wait to see how the actors are able to portray them.”
Alexander chose this play for a few reasons, stating that it could be done on a lower budget, produced well with a small cast, has an enticing message that is relevant in today’s world. Additionally, this year is the centennial anniversary of WWI. The first x-ray machine was invented for the war and it used radium – the central motif of the play. Although the show does not primarily take place during WWI, it does follow the incredible discoveries from that time period.
“I want this show to flow, and I always look for a challenge when directing and perhaps for the students. I wanted this to be topical, accessible, and I wanted to stick a mirror up to the faces of those involved and viewing to try and show them that history repeats itself,” said Alexander.
‘Radium Girls’ will be performed in the Heiland Theater on April 11, 12, and 13, 2019. Ticket reservations and any questions regarding the show can be directed to the box office located in the Boyd Lobby or by calling (937) 481-2267.5