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The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

Patriot players begin to assemble ‘Radium Girls’

Freshmen+Laya+Hudaravalli+and+Hania+Zawadka+review+their+audition+packets+outside+of+Room+130+on+Sept.13+.
Photo by Rudy Essiomle
Freshmen Laya Hudaravalli and Hania Zawadka review their audition packets outside of Room 130 on Sept.13 .

Patriot players, students involved in the theater program prepare for the upcoming play, “Radium Girls.”

Patriot Players, run by theater teacher Dr. Julian Lazarus, produces a fall play and spring musical annually. This year’s fall play is a widely produced show. “Radium Girls’ is a really popular show at high schools right now. Also, it’s different from the shows that we’ve been doing in the last couple of years. It’s much more serious. It’s based on a true story,” Dr. Lazarus said.

“Radium Girls” is based on real-life female dial painters who were called by the same name. According to Britannica, 20 years after radium was discovered people jumped to the conclusion that radium was a “miraculous element”. It was used for all kinds of applications, including treatment of cancer.

Radium was also used in cosmetics, toothpaste, and even in containers holding water that were labeled as ‘radium water.’ Additionally, the glow it gave to skin was used as a tactic to advertise it. “Radium was so popular in the consumer market that many products claimed to be radioactive, even if they weren’t,” according to an article by CNN.

After WWI there were many factories that created luminous watches and clocks. The digits would glow in the dark as they were painted with radioactive paint. Painting those watches and clocks was a high-paying job and the female dial workers had higher wages than the average female worker. “Hundreds of young women were hired for the well-paying painting jobs because their small hands were well suited for the exacting, detailed work,” according to an article by Britannica.

The female workers were encouraged to lick the brush to keep it at a fine point as a way for the factories to save money as water would be too expensive. Managers would tell the workers that it was OK to consume and there was no harm. The workers would use it to paint their teeth and nails to glow. “The women hired to paint dials came to be known as ‘ghost girls’ because the radium dust to which they were exposed daily made their clothes, hair, and skin literally glow,” Britannica reported.

According to the Science Museum Group, “From 1921, numerous dial painters in Orange began to complain of strange illnesses. Their teeth would ache and eventually fall out. The resulting hole where the tooth had been would not heal and abscesses formed. They began to develop severe anemia. Their bones went brittle.”

The first death was a woman named Amelia Maggia, followed by two women named Helen Quinlan and Irene Rudolph. Their doctors and as well as other doctors of dial workers filed concerns to the health and labor departments and were ignored. The characters in the play “Radium Girls” are based on these women.

Harvard physician Cecil Drinker and pathologist Harrison Martland who are both characters in the play, made investigations about radium being dangerous. They were both discredited by the radium industry for their finding that radium was dangerous and the cause of the deaths of the women working in the factories.

This led a factory woman named Grace Fryer, the main lead in the play, with Katherine Schaub, Quinta Maggia McDonald, Albina Maggia Larice, and Edna Hussman to sue the U.S Radium corporation for their illnesses with the help of attorney Raymond Berry, who joins them in the play.

Students were given a packet that had a scene for which they would choose a character to reenact and practice for audition day. Junior Amelie Tessie auditioned for the parts of Grace Fryer and Katherine Shcuab. “[I auditioned by] mainly reading the audition paper and reading through the [full] play online,” Tessier said.

Seniors also set their eyes on the role of Grace Fryer as it’s their last year to have a lead in high school. “It’s a different genre of theater so it’s more of a dramatic piece than a comedy. So if theater students are in four years of shows they should have the opportunity to not only do different kinds of shows, [but] also different kinds of leads of those shows,” Dr. Lazarus said.

Senior Nwamaka Aniagboso auditioned for Grace Fryer. “Honestly, I really want to show off my dramatic side of acting because I’ve been cast in roles that have been more comedy. I just want to show it off for once before the end of my high school theater career,” Aniagboso said.

Senior Abigail Perry, who participated in “Clue” and “Charlie Brown” also auditioned for Grace Fryer. “I feel like Grace is very strong spoken and I was going for Irene because she’s a supporting character. So, I feel like I’d also be a supporting character if that’s possible,” Perry said.

Auditions were after school on Sept. 12 and 13 in Dr. Lazurus’ room, where students had their pictures taken and performed for Dr. Lazarus and English teacher Chloe Felterman. “Auditions are funny because you’re looking for something like a seed of something that we’re gonna get in three months,” Dr. Lazarus said.

The results came out on Friday, Sept.15 and Nwamaka Aniagboso was cast as Grace Fryer, the main lead along with senior Nadia Arnold playing Katherine Schuab. Rehearsals started on Sept. 18. “I’m really excited. I think it has a lot of potential to be good,“ senior stage manager Christina Caggiano said.

The play will run on Nov. 9-12.

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Rudy Essiomle, opinion editor
Senior Rudy Essiomle is an opinion editor in her second year on the Common Sense staff. In her free time, she likes to paint, bake pastries, and watch cooking shows and films.
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