Director’s Note

Museum Theatre is a medium of art that allows us to revisit formative and historical events from a personal point of view. Through Radium Girls, we relive a season of enlightenment, yet also of unknown and frightening consequences due to “new medicine” and “new science,” terms frequently thrown around in today’s circumstances. How relevant for a story such as what happened in the 1920s to resurface and catch the public eye once more. This play highlights the historical events and plight of the “radium girls,” an era which still catches our breath. It is a woeful tragedy of greed, deceit, agony, and suffering. The little justice that was served thankfully transformed U.S. labor laws, yet it came at a high cost.

In our production, three actresses represent the dozens of girls affected by radium poisoning from their work in a watch painting factory. The other actors portray the multiple tiers of the organization who so brutally turned a blind eye to the poisoned, the public who used the girls’ pain for personal advancement, and the interpersonal relationships affected by the girls’ heartbreaking last days. Our performers are not just depicting one character each, but rather the whole spectrum of society affected by the influence of radium in its early beginnings.

This experience has not only challenged our actors to grow as artists, but to see how theatre can be used to inform, educate, and entertain at the same time. The characters they represent were real people with a horrifying reality. As Christians, we recognize the sanctity of human life in these women, contrasted with the company’s disrespect of life’s fragility. We are reminded that these women were made in God’s image, yet died tragic deaths due to the fallen nature of mankind. I am beyond proud of the passion and authenticity these students have brought to their assigned roles, and I am eager for you to see their work. 

If you have not heard of this time in our country’s history, I anticipate you will be as shocked as I was. If you are familiar with the “Radium Girls,” it is good to be reminded of their race-against-time fight for justice since the present-day structure of the workplace is what it is because of their sacrifice. The prayer for our actors has been to carry this show with compassion. The prayer for you, our audience, is that you will receive it with a new-found appreciation for these shining young women, who are still quite literally shining today, for radium has a half-life of 1,600 years, and it is still embedded in their bones. These women are shining in their graves even today.

Leah Perry, Director