Lights, Camera, Action: Radium Girls


Rachel Vandevort, News Editor

While many have heard of the plays Romeo and Juliet and Othello, there is a new show in town ready to take the spotlight. That show is Radium Girls, performed by our very own North Hills High Schoolers. This modern classic is sure to be a nail bitter and tug on the heartstrings of the viewers. To get the inside scoop on the upcoming performance, I asked cast members Calvin Chmura and Moreen McGrath some questions.

For those who have not heard of the play Radium Girls before, could you please give a synopsis of storyline?

Moreen:  In the early 1900s, the medical field and the public alike were obsessed with miracle science. Every new element discovered was a possible panacea and immediately incorporated into all walks of life. Such was the case with radium, a highly radioactive element that causes severe ailments when exposed to for a long period of time. In the 1910s, radium powder was incorporated into a paint, which glowed in the dark and proved just bright enough to help the soldiers in the battlefields see without being detected. The paint was used on watch faces, which were hand painted by young factory workers who would sharpen the points of their bristles with their teeth in order to paint the numbers carefully. Radium Girls follows the story of Grace Fryer, a factory worker who falls ill to the Radium exposure, and her fellow workers as they attempt to cope with their illness and to get the recompense due to them by the dial painting company.

What are the dates for the performances? Are they all available to the public?

Calvin: There are shows at 7:30 on Thursday, November 12th, Friday the 13th, and Saturday the 14th. There is also a matinee performance on Saturday. All shows are available to the public.

Where or from whom can tickets be purchased? For how much?

Calvin: Anyone can purchase tickets. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. The doors open at 6:45 and there is no reserve seating or pre-purchased tickets. The matinee tickets are $3 for adults and $2 for students.

As far as producing the play and making sure everything runs smoothly, who is in charge behind the scenes?

Moreen:  Behind the scenes, we have our Director, Mr. Glenn Richey; our Assistant Director, Ms. Lauren Sarazen; and our Technical Director, Mr. Kevin Richey. They all ensure that our performances are running smoothly and offer solutions to the possible problems that inevitably occur during performances. In terms of truly running the show, we have a student-run tech crew and a student-run sound and light team.

Who are some of the leads within the play and their characters?

Calvin: Natalie Just, a junior, plays Grace Fryer. Izzy Roll, senior, plays her friend, Kathryn Schaub. Junior Connor Hoffman plays Arthur Roeder, and Brandon Hackimer, also a junior, is Charlie Lee. Junior Josh Mann is Grace’s fiancé, Tom Kreider. And Nick Page plays the lawyer for the radium company, Markley.

How many nights a week have you been practicing for your upcoming performance?

Moreen: At the beginning of the rehearsal process, we probably rehearsed three or four times a week from 2:15 until about 3:00 or 4:00. However, as the show has grown closer, we have started rehearsing every day after school from 2:15 until about 5:00. We also sometimes rehearse on weekends after working on our set.

Without spoiling too much, what part of the play are you most excited to see or perform in front of an audience?

Calvin: Definitely the end scene. It’s so creepy, just like the rest of the show.

Moreen: The show, being a true drama, is quite dialogue heavy, so there are a good number of scenes that are extremely emotionally charged. For my character in particular, there is a constant worry for Grace and also for our dire financial situation that pervades my interactions. There is one scene in which I get in an argument with Grace in front of a lawyer, and Grace stands up for herself in a way that really puts my character into her place. It’s really fun to perform because of all the emotions and tension that has to come across to the audience.

What has it been like preparing for your performance coming up? Hectic? Nerve racking?

Calvin: It’s definitely been hectic, but we’re definitely prepared for this week and we’re really excited to give everyone a good show.

Moreen: The show has come along really nicely this year in terms of pacing and feeling prepared. Of course there are a few last-minute changes that will probably be made that could throw some things off, but for the most part, I think the cast feels generally comfortable and excited to get to perform for an audience.

Have there been any crazy or hilarious backstage moments that you would like to share that may amuse readers?

Moreen: Funny things happen nearly every day backstage, but the best moments every year happen in the wings during the actual performances. Off the top of my head, though, there was this one day during a dress rehearsal when a bunch of us were waiting to go on stage, and Hannah McCreary was reading lines near the lamp for a character who was absent. I think a scene change happened, and Sarah Knoebeloch was pushed into Hannah and ended up pinning her against the wall. Before they could move away, about five or six of the cast members who were waiting to go on stage just decided to lean on Sarah and Hannah, making this line of like eight people just crushing Hannah against the wall. It was really strange because nobody established that we should all pile on top of her, but it happened on its own and it lasted for a couple of minutes. We were all cracking up as we walked on stage and almost blew a couple lines because we were all out of character from laughing. It was so weird. That’s why it was so funny, though.

If you were not in the play, would you go to see it?

Calvin: Without a doubt! It’s an amazing show.

Moreen: Of course! I love the theatre and love to support North Hills’ Drama program. It’s an excellent program, and we hope that everyone who wants to support in some way will do so by coming to events and performances.

To anyone who has not already planned to buy a ticket to see Radium Girls, what would you say to convince them to go and see it?

Calvin: It’s a great show that we have worked really hard to create a moving experience.

Moreen: The play is really interesting and is not often performed by high schoolers because of its emotional depth. If you want to see your fellow students execute a particularly challenging piece and employ dramatic elements that are difficult for even experienced performers to display, I’d advise coming in to see the shows.

Clearly, the performers are extremely proud of the show they will be putting on and are excited for the public to see what they have accomplished. The show will have many ups and downs with a killer ending to keep the audience on the edge of their seats; so make sure to buy your tickets to see Radium Girls on November 12-14. I know I will.