Marshfield High School Drama Students Fight for Justice in “Radium Girls”

One of the Radium Girls, Kathryn Schaub is now bedridden with her illness, and visited in her hospital room by a member of the press offering money for a story. Grace Fryer, another Radium Girl, and her fiancé, Tom Kreider, look on. Don Patterson photo.

Play Tells True Story of Watch Painters

Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) At the end of their shifts, the women glowed in the dark. They were well-paid factory workers, diligently painting watch dials with luminous paint for the U.S. Radium Corporation in 1920s New Jersey.

As the girls began to fall ill one by one, it was clear the paint they had been exposed to at work had poisoned them and stolen their futures. The fight for justice against the company that had failed to protect them is presented in the science-history drama “Radium Girls,” to be performed by the Marshfield High School Drama Club Nov. 15-16.

A crowd gathers at the arrival of Dr. Marie Curie, the scientist who discovered Radium, excitedly learning about the possibility that Radium cures cancer. Don Patterson photo.

Director Amanda Leurquin chose the play, one of the top-performed shows in high schools nationwide, to showcase a moment in history that’s often relegated to the footnotes.

“Because of these women, changes were made in occupational and workplace safety, as well as legal changes occurred. It is also written by a female author, and allows for many intriguing character roles for female performers,” said Learquin. “It’s a fascinating story about the radium dial-painters of the twenties and thirties, but also addresses what happens when corporations lose sight of their employees’ well-being.”

Written with warmth and humor, “Radium Girls” follows dial painter Grace Fryer as she seeks justice in court and battles against her former employer, Arthur Roeder, who refuses to believe the same substance which was being used to miraculously shrink tumors could be causing his employees to fall terrifyingly ill.

The factory women and their manager, Mrs. MacNeil, of the U.S. Radium plant in Orange, New Jersey. Don Patterson photo.

The cast of 35 students plus 15 crew members include Makenna Yeske, junior, as Grace Fryer; Jarreth Schaefer, senior, CEO of the Radium Dial Corporation; Rhiannon Manlick, junior, as Grace’s co-worker Kathrine Schaub; and Caroline Thompson, sophomore, as co-worker Irene Rudolph.

“Radium Girls” will be performed Friday, Nov. 15 and Sat. Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. The show is recommended for ages 12 and up due to the play’s subject matter which would best hold the interest of an older audience.

Tickets can be purchased online for at ShowTix4U.com, at the Marshfield High School main office, or in the lobby the day of the show. Adult prices are $9 per ticket or $8 for students and seniors.