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Chester County Press

Kennett High School presents ‘Radium Girls’ Nov. 21 to 23

11/19/2019 02:00PM ● By J. Chambless

‘Radium Girls’ centers on the true story of women factory workers poisoned at their jobs in 1917.

Written by female playwright D.W. Gregory in 2000, “Radium Girls” was inspired by a true story.

The play, being staged at Kennett High School this weekend, traces the efforts of Grace Fryer (Marisol Gonzalez) as she fights for her day in court. Grace and her friends Irene Rudolph (Stephanny Gheen-Regouski) and Kathryn Schaub (Josette Wynn) are dial painters at the U.S. Radium plant. The girls create the luminous watch faces that are all the rage in the mid-1920s by applying radium with paint brushes molded to fine points in their own mouths. Many of the factory workers fall sick, and one even dies, encouraging Grace to come forward with her story.

Her boss is Arthur Roeder (Ryan Myers), an idealistic man who cannot bring himself to believe that radium, the same element that world-renowned scientist Marie Curie (Diana Giganti Dima) describes as a potential miracle cure for cancer, could have anything to do with the mysterious spread of illness among his employees. As time goes on, Grace finds herself battling not just with the U.S. Radium Corporation as the company tries to prevent her from talking to the press, but with her own family and friends, who fear the backlash that a quest for truth and justice often generates.

“Radium Girls” has an ensemble of 21 actors who play 40 different parts -- friends and lovers, relatives and bystanders, attorneys and doctors – all of whom play a role in Grace’s story.

Other cast members include Christian Adam (Dr. Frederick Flinn), Lydia Duckworth (Mrs. Cora Middleton), Lainee Foester (Ms. Wiley), Julia Haenn (Reporter), Sylvia He (Harriet Roeder), Ksenia Kaliakin (Mrs. Fryer), Thomas Linderman (Dr. Von Sochocky), Justin McAndrew (Reporter), Paulie Mullin (Dr. Knef), Faith Poulton (Diane Roeder), Robby Rauscher (Charlie Lee), Luke Sandusky (Tommy Kreider), Noah Schiller (Edward Markley), Catt Seamon (Mrs. MacNeil), Bladen Strzalka (Dr. Harrison Martland), and Leah Wardwell (Dial painter). Many members of the cast play multiple smaller roles as well.

Nance Weber is directing her fifth production at KHS. Kennett teacher Katie Soukup is the production manager; Soukup and Weber are also overseeing properties, with costumes by Tricia Beichner. Science teacher Michael Anastas is in charge of sound and lights.  KHS teacher Bob Anthony built this year’s set with parents Nat Caccamo and Bill Morrison. New Garden teacher Ryan Battin will assist the students backstage, and Anna Brunke is the student production assistant.

In explaining her choice for this year’s production, Weber said, “This play really spoke to me, as it is an interpretation of actual historical events. Women dial painters working for the U.S. Radium Corporation in 1917 thought they'd been offered the best job of their lives, only to end up dying for the company.

“What I love most about this play is that the students are bringing to life real people whose voices weren't heard 100 years ago but are here to teach us today,” Weber said. “The mistakes made for commercial gain are so incredibly obvious to us now, and yet are eerily being repeated all around us. My hope is that the students will recognize this and have a greater appreciation for these women -- and others -- who suffered, fought, and stood up for their rights to bring us many of the freedoms we have today, and they themselves will become advocates for truth and justice.”

The curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door ($5 for students and seniors, and $8 for adults).