Coming soon: Radium Girls

The CVHS theater department recently announced the new fall play: “Radium Girls.” It tells the true story of factory workers during World War I, who worked with deadly radium. The story follows Grace Fryer and her journey to court for justice.

It’s the 1920s, and radium is the new big thing. Discovered by Marie Curie, its radioactive component allowed it to shrink tumors and “cure” cancer. Every day, the Radium Girls would paint watch dials with radium infused paint. To give the brush a finer tip, they were instructed to lick the tips of the brushes. This long term exposure to radium caused many of them to contract a deadly illness. At first the reason was unknown—doctors claimed it was syphilis or bad hygiene—any cause but radium. After all, how could the same element that could cure cancer cause radiation disease?

Grace Fryer is one of the infamous Radium Girls. She started working for the U.S. Radium Company at 15 and loved her job there, until a few years later, her friend and former colleague, Irene, fell sick. Soon after, more girls, including Grace, fall ill to a similar disease. After numerous visits to various doctors, she finally discovers that she has contracted radiation poisoning from working in the factory. Grace along with four other women went to court with the U.S. Radium Company, in hopes of receiving compensation for the rest of their numbered days.

Auditions for the play were held on September 12 and 13. Students were asked to prepare a monologue from the show, and then performed a cold read, where they read lines from the script without rehearsing beforehand. The final cast list was posted on September 15.

Many students had mixed feelings about the audition. Even students who had previously been in plays or musicals before still felt the pressure of doing well. 

“I felt pretty good, nervous of course, but confident, ” said sophomore Mina Chen.

Tiffany Daily, the drama teacher at CVHS oversaw these auditions. According to Playbill’s “10 Most-Produced High School Plays and Musicals of 2021-2022,” Radium Girls was one of the top ten list of shows that were being performed at high schools. 

“I was interested because other students were finding it to be a popular and successful show at their schools, so I wanted to read about it and find out more,” said Daily, explaining why she chose this play. 

When looking at auditions, Daily tends to look for something that really stands out in a student’s performance, something that’s “a little bit above and beyond the norm.”

“In the theater and film industry, people will sometimes call it the ‘X-factor,’ but there’s usually just some interesting quality that an actor will bring to their role that kind of just screams ‘Yes, I’m the right person for this character!’” she said.

Once final casting finished, rehearsals started immediately. The show is an eight week process with two hour rehearsals everyday after school. The first showing of “Radium Girls” will open Nov. 4 at the Center for the Arts.