Theatre concludes its third and final showing of Radium Girls


Jackson Cummings, Web Sports Editor

By licking their radium-tipped paint brushes a hundred times each day, many factory workers unknowingly died from excessive radium exposure in the 1920s. The Spartan Theater Company recently performed Radium Girls, which tells this true story about female factory workers who advocated against corporate malpractice that resulted in workers’ deaths.

Senior Eva Spaid played the role of Catherine Shaab, one of the many factory workers who died from radium exposure. According to Spaid, the play conveyed an “emotional and sad” tone.

“You have to be honest and thoughtful when you’re portraying [the characters] because these were real people who had real lives,” Spaid said.

Previously, in the fall, the Spartan Theater Company put on Sense and Sensibility, a Jane Austen play about two sisters coming of age.

“I think choosing this show after the light-hearted, fun, show of Sense and Sensibility was a really good choice,” Spaid said. “[Radium Girls] is so moving to the audience and to the people on stage that we’ve cried on stage.”

Meanwhile, backstage crew members found the short three-week time period of memorizing all of the technical ins-and-outs to be a “crunch time,” Stage Manager and freshman Sierra Kelly said.

“You have to know a lot about the show to do your job; it’s a lot of memorization in such a short amount of time,” Backstage crew member and freshman Trent McCauley said. 

“You also have to know things like ‘two people are gonna be taking this table on, and it’ll go here, so I have to move around like this.’”

Kelly said she had to create a spreadsheet “with every single cue in the show exactly when it needs to happen.” Kelly’s ultimate goal was perfecting the timing of the stage cues, such as the lighting and stage setting, to avoid disrupting the audience’s experience, she said.

“If the scene ends too late, there’s an awkward pause and nobody knows what’s happening, or conversely, if you change too soon and lose the end of a scene, that just takes away from the power and the emotion of the show,” Kelly said.

Additionally, actors were continually challenged by attempting to portray their facial expressions onstage through their masks, before the indoor mask mandate was lifted, Spaid said.

When half of their face is covered, actors “really worked on making sure the audience could read and hear what we’re saying with the mask,” Spaid said.

Despite the logistical implications and challenges that Radium Girls faced, Kelly said she’s impressed with how the play turned out.

“It’s amazing to see when it all comes together and the audience comes out saying ‘wow, that was a powerful production,’” Kelly said.