Metea Valley High's fall play tells the story of the 'Radium Girls'

  • "Radium Girls" Irene (Zainab Shaikh) and Katherine (Sarah Madden) play a prank by painting themselves with radium so they would glow.

    "Radium Girls" Irene (Zainab Shaikh) and Katherine (Sarah Madden) play a prank by painting themselves with radium so they would glow. Courtesy of Bari Baskin

 
 
Posted10/31/2022 1:02 PM

Metea Valley High School continues its 2022-23 theater season with the fall play, "Radium Girls," inspired by the true story of Grace Fryer, a dial painter, as she fights for her day in court.

It will be performed at 7 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, Nov. 3-5, in the school auditorium, 1801 N. Eola Road, Aurora. They will be closing the run with an understudy show at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6. Tickets are $10 or $5 for students/seniors and can be purchased online at meteatheater.org or at the door one half-hour before curtain.

 

The Daily Herald checked in with director Matt Wolski to learn more about this production.

1920s media, portrayed by Ananya Gondesi, left. and Gabrielle Gudgeon, vie for the attention of the public with sensational headlines and breaking news during rehearsal for Metea Valley's "Radium Girls."
1920s media, portrayed by Ananya Gondesi, left. and Gabrielle Gudgeon, vie for the attention of the public with sensational headlines and breaking news during rehearsal for Metea Valley's "Radium Girls." - Courtesy of Bari Baskin

Q: Why did you choose "Radium Girls" for Metea Valley High School's fall play?

A: "Radium Girls" is such a powerful show based on a true story. We wanted to challenge our students to bring this story to life, to make it feel real to them and to the audience, because it is such an important story to tell about life, struggle, and even loss, all of which our audience can relate to at some point in their life.

The themes that this true story had to offer in its storytelling are very relevant today; big business exploiting the working class, the power of the media, and men vs women in the fight for equality. The more powerful theme within the story, in my opinion, is time.

Time is utilized within the show as a conscience, a reminder that in this industrialized society portrayed, we can create and paint all these watch dials, we can never create more time.

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Time is what haunts both Grace and Roeder (our main characters) in the show to do what is morally right, even if it costs them everything.

Q: For those who aren't familiar, please describe the plot.

A: In 1926, radium was a miracle cure, Madame Curie an international celebrity, and luminous watches the latest rage -- until the girls who painted them began to fall ill with a mysterious disease.

Inspired by a true story, "Radium Girls" traces the efforts of Grace Fryer, a dial painter, as she fights for her day in court. Her chief adversary is her former employer, Arthur Roeder, an idealistic man who cannot bring himself to believe that the same element that shrinks tumors could have anything to do with the terrifying rash 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.

Arther Reoder (played by Kevin Paul), the head of the Radium Corp., and his wife (Courtney Upton) get a visit from Charles Lee (Bhargav Chandramouli).
Arther Reoder (played by Kevin Paul), the head of the Radium Corp., and his wife (Courtney Upton) get a visit from Charles Lee (Bhargav Chandramouli). - Courtesy of Bari Baskin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Q: How many students are involved with the production?

A: Between our tech crew and our actors there are roughly 40 students involved in the production.

Q: How will your play differ from the original?

A: Traditionally the show is performed with actors playing multiple parts, between 8 to 10 total. While we wanted to maintain that spirit of how the show was written, we also wanted to create more opportunities for our students, and limited how many characters each of our actors would play, stretching the cast to 23.

Dr. Von Sochocky (Drew Chandler, center), inventor of radium paint, is being interviewed as to why he has agreed to testify to the danger of his life's work. Also pictured, from left, are: Ace Martey, Sandra Douglas, Josh Malartski, Zainab Shaikh, Drew Chandler, Miles Lathrop, Gabrielle Gudgeon, Ryan Lease and Nitya Dixit.
Dr. Von Sochocky (Drew Chandler, center), inventor of radium paint, is being interviewed as to why he has agreed to testify to the danger of his life's work. Also pictured, from left, are: Ace Martey, Sandra Douglas, Josh Malartski, Zainab Shaikh, Drew Chandler, Miles Lathrop, Gabrielle Gudgeon, Ryan Lease and Nitya Dixit. - Courtesy of Bari Baskin

Q: What were the most challenging aspects of getting this production together?

A: One of the bigger challenges is that this material is very heavy, very emotionally charged. Some of our cast, and even our staff, have had experiences in real life that are similar to the experiences in the show.

Before we even started the show we wanted to make sure our students were mentally and emotionally supported, building healthy strategies to help our students get in and out of character moments that require those high levels of emotion. We also have some great kids, all of whom are positive peers and more than supportive of each other.

Our students are some of the most talented I have ever worked with and they are also looking forward to the challenge of creating and differentiating the multiple characters they play throughout the show. With our actors playing multiple parts, they want to ensure the audience is not taken out of the experience.

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