‘These Shining Lives’ shows strength of friendshipsNovember 14, 2019
By LEANN BURKE
JASPER — It’s neither a fairy tale nor a tragedy. It’s a story of time.
In the play “These Shining Lives,” the true story of the workers of the Radium Dial Company in the early 1900s comes to life. Next weekend, Actors Community Theatre will bring the story to life in a dinner theater where they will portray the lives of four women — Catherine Donohue, Charlotte, Frances and Pearl — as they begin work at the Radium Dial factory, fall ill due to radium poisoning and sue the company. Eventually, their case makes it to the Supreme Court, and they become a landmark case for workers’ rights.
See more photos of "These Shining Lives"
Jasmine Bosler plays Catherine, the main character. To prepare for her role, Bosler said, she and her castmates — Jade Marinin who portrays Charlotte, Tyra Drew who plays Pearl and Liz Book who plays Frances — researched the women, the Radium Dial company and the 1920s and early 1930s in general. Through their research, they learned that an estimated 4,000 women became ill from their work for the company, which hired them to paint watch and clock faces with radium-laced paint that glowed in the dark. The company trained the girls to roll their paint brushes on their lips to create the point needed to paint the numbers. After a day’s work, according to the play, the women’s exposed skin and clothes glowed from the radium dust in the paint. Eventually, the dust would poison all of them.
For Bosler, the fact that she’s portraying a character who really existed stuck with her.
“You can see pictures of Catherine Donohue if you Google her,” Bosler said.
As the actors worked on their characters and rehearsed the play, the strength of their characters in the face of their radium poisoning and the power of the women’s friendship stood out. The actors agreed that it is in part because of the friendship the real-life Radium Girls must have had with each other that they were able to stand up to the Radium Dial company in court and withstand the media and public scrutiny that followed their case. As a line in the play says, “Our case went to court. Our story went to press. And the press went to town.”
Despite the challenges of the legal battle and their failing health, the real-life Radium Girls persisted, and eventually won. “These Shining Lives” portrays their whole story through the lens of the four main characters’ friendship.
“Women find strength in their friendships,” Book said.
Bosler took it a step further.
“There’s something about the unifying power of friendship that helps women stand up,” she added.
Tickets for “These Shining Lives” are on sale now at actorscommunitytheatre.com. The tickets are $25 and include a catered dinner from Brew. Performances will be November 21-23 at the Jasper Arts Center.
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