Students to present drama ‘Radium Girls’

By : 
Marlene Deschler

This fall, students at Spring Grove High School have tackled a serious drama for their fall production.  

“Radium Girls” by D.W. Gregory, is based on historical events from the 1920s. At one point in time, radium was thought to be a miracle cure. 

There were many products that contained radium, even drinks. It was not known at the time that there would be such damaging effects. 

Luminous watches were very popular and radium was also used on dials for instruments that were used in the military field. 

Women (who became known as radium girls) hand-painted the clocks and dials with radium using small paintbrushes that needed a precise tip that they were told to create by putting the point of the paintbrush to their lips. And in time, they began to fall ill with a mysterious disease. 

“In a sense, it is a ‘same story, different day’ scenario,” remarked drama teacher and “Radium Girls” director, Megan Miller. “This storyline of the excitement for a grand new invention that has everyone jumping on board without having taken the time to fully know the effects, could easily be something that is happening today.” 

 “Radium Girls” is inspired by a true story; it “traces the efforts of Grace Fryer, a dial painter, as she fights for her day in court. Her chief adversary is her former employer who cannot bring himself to believe that the same element that shrinks tumors could have anything to do with the terrifying outbreak of illnesses among his employees. As the case goes on, however, Grace finds herself battling not just with the U.S. Radium Corporation, but with her own family and friends, who fear that her campaign for justice will backfire.”

“This has been a very powerful play to be a part of,” commented Olivia Mendez who plays the lead, Grace Fryer. “For the past few months I have not only become a character in a play, but I have had to embody a real person who was faced with many challenges and trials. 

“Playing a part like this makes you empathetic for those who have to go through trials. I have come to realize how history repeats itself — in the ‘20s it was radium that was causing harm and today there are things like cigarettes that cause harm. 

“It is important to find the truth for oneself – the radium girls believed what their superiors and scientists told them, that it was ok to ingest radium in large amounts.”

The cast has been practicing “Radium Girls” since mid-September amidst a busy fall sports calendar that leads to challenges of sharing of the gym and stage areas. 

Also challenging has been the incorporation of showing projections of newsreel footage from when these events actual took place. According to Miller, the depth of the stage makes this difficult.

Stage manager for this production is senior Rhiannon Skauge. She has been involved with nearly every drama production since seventh grade. “We have a young cast this year with many seventh and eighth grade students; for many it is their first production, that is exciting!” 

As stage manager, she helps fellow students with their lines as needed, takes notes and suggests moves, helps with scene changes, as well as light and sound cues and helps run the show when the director is busy with others. 

“I enjoy doing dramas; I think the audience learns more from a drama than a comedy,” she added. 

This fall, Miller suffered a concussion. “While I was recovering from my concussion, I relied a lot on the older kids for help; they have done a phenomenal job,” Miller remarked. “Serious dramas like this may be a bit more difficult and intimidating for our younger cast members, but I think it is good for all of the students to stretch their talents and have experience with a drama.”

Cast members in “Radium Girls” are Olivia Mendez, Evan Holty, Ty Cleven, Brody Christiansen, Wyatt Spier, Josh Newgaard, Emily Guberud, Danika Holty, Alisa Moran, Rhiannon Skauge, Jacine Johanningmeier, Ashton Towne, Jensen Krosch, Hailey Borreson, Ashlyn  Hammel, Ashton Towne, Marah Mathison, Katie Lamm, Ella Wennes, Tiffany Michels, Hailie Kittleson, Ellie Halverson, Cierra Blaskowski, and Maria Blaskowski. 

Crewmembers include, Maria Myrah, Sydnie Kampschroer, Gina Lund, Celsey Nelson-Cody, Alex Deters, Hunter Holland, Hannah Dodson, Ryan Lawson, Tanner Thesing, Tyler Kersten, Dominic Omighen, and Sam Folstad.

“Radium Girls” is Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Spring Grove High School gymnasium; doors open at 6:30 p.m. 

Tickets are available at the door only. Adults are $7 and students and senior citizens are $5. There will be dessert concessions available for sale.  

“It’s a great show that we’ve put a lot of work into,” added Skauge. “We hope you’ll come and learn more about the radium girls.”