Shaler Area brings the story of ‘Radium Girls’ to the stage
Monday, November 11, 2019 | 12:01 AM
In “Radium Girls,” Shaler Area High School students will stage the true story of the female factory workers who shined a light in court on the U.S. Radium Corp.’s deadly working conditions.
Thirty-six students will tell the story of the Orange, N.J., factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with self-luminous paint for military usage. Thirty students will assist behind the scenes during the production’s run, Nov. 21 through 23.
Teachers Kristen Aluise and Anne Loudon are directing the D.W. Gregory play based on the Kate Moore book “The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women.”
Grace Fryer, played by senior Kelsey Marshall, leads the efforts for justice along with fellow factory worker Kathryn Schaub, played by senior Isabella James. Together they fight the U.S. Radium Corp. and its President Arthur Roeder (senior Alex Almonte), who is supported by his wife Diane Roeder (junior Zoe Babbit), and company Vice President C.B. Lee (senior Roman Kurz).
“I think everyone should come out to see it because this is a big part of history that we don’t always learn about,” Almonte said.
Moreover, several students expressed a responsibility to properly honor the people affected by the real-life events depicted in the play.
Senior Jasey Reiser portrays Marie Curie, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics, along with her husband, Pierre, for their remarkable radiation research. Curie was the first woman Nobel Prize recipient.
Marie Curie died in 1934, at 66, from complications caused by the radiation exposure that she endured throughout her career.
Reiser said that her character appears early in the play touting radium’s benefits in curing cancer. Following Curie’s death, she appears as an “idol” in a factory worker’s dreams.
“She was made the poster child of the battle with the company to get her compensation at the end because they didn’t want to pay her and the rest of dial painters compensation for all of the medical bills because of all of the doctors that they went to see,” senior Kelsey Marshall, said of her portrayal of Grace Fryer.
“And Grace, how the radium affected her, it pooled in her back and in her leg, and her jaw also started to decay. … It’s been a journey finding out how this real lady lived and figuring out her story in the context of the play.”
Almonte described Roeder.
“His business is his whole life; it’s been his dream and now he’s watching it fall apart from this illness that he never intended to happen. And so, in his eyes, he feels innocent, even though it is partially his fault. He is trying to withhold his stance with his business. Later in the play, we will see where his alliances lie between his business and these sick girls.”
Almonte hopes to convey the struggle that Roeder has between “his personal values and the accountability with these girls and to show that even in everyday life, we have struggles between our own self-interests and other interests and we have to balance those out and realize what’s true.”
Marshall wants to use her performance to illustrate that instances similar to those experienced by the “radium girls” can happen again. She mentioned the George Santayana quote, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
“You learn about it. You respect it, and you use it to move forward. You have to acknowledge that it happened, even though it was horrible, but you still have to use it to move on and make the world a better place,” said Marshall.
The Shaler Area Alumni Association is sponsoring a VIP event during “Radium Girls’” opening night.
The event will include an optional private tour of the high school at 5:30 p.m. and a 6:20 p.m. coffee and dessert reception, during which alumni can meet the cast and co-directors. The $9 VIP ticket includes reserved seats to the play in an alumni section.
Shaler Area alumni may purchase VIP tickets at the high school activities office from 6:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. Mention the alumni VIP ticket package when purchasing the tickets. Or purchase the VIP tickets at
www.showclix.com/event/sahs-radiumgirls using the VIP code: SAALUM at checkout. VIP sales end at midnight, Nov. 20.
If you go
What: Shaler Area High School presents “Radium Girls”
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 21 and 22; and 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 23
Where: Shaler Area High School Auditorium, 381 Wible Run Road, Glenshaw
Tickets: $9. Can be purchased at www.showclix.com/event/sahs-radiumgirls, from 6:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Monday through Friday at the high school activities office, or at the high school auditorium ticket booth, which opens an hour before each performance.
If you have questions, call 412-492-1200, ext. 1530.