“Radium Girls” turns the dial towards feminism

By Danielle Hogan – Arts Editor 

Lasell College Drama Club presented “Radium Girls” on April 5, 6, and 8 in Yamawaki Auditorium. The show tells the story of the young dial painters in New Jersey who started dying from ‘radium jaw.’ During the time period the show is set in, radium was thought to be the cure-all to everything. 

“Radium Girls” had a minimal set (all black with rustic clock faces and gears), but the show relied on the passionate and dramatic performances of the students. Photo by Danielle Hogan

Marie Curie and her husband Pierre discovered radium in 1898. It was believed to be a cancer treatment and was in many households as a health tonic as well as other everyday uses. The girls routines while dial painting included taking the paint brush and sticking it in their mouths. Radium was replacing the calcium in their jaw, therefore the jaw began to decay and became brittle. 

The first death was Mollie Maggia, but her death certificate stated she died from syphilis. Three girls in particular are spotlighted in D.W. Gregory’s show: Grace Fryer (Mariah Lang), Katherine Schaub (Skylar Kallman), and Irene Rudolf (Hannah Rich). After more girls got sick and more of her friends passed, Fryer decided to sue. She opened a case against the factory in New Jersey in 1927. 

The actors and actresses put on passionate performances of this drama. The set was simple, but creative. It was minimal, so the show heavily relied on the vivacious performances by the students. The overarching theme of the show was empowering Fryer to pursue a court case regardless of the obstacles the company would throw at her. 

Drama Club Director Lori L’Italien implemented the message of female empowerment, and challenged the audience to relate it to the time period. This isn’t her first drama, last year L’Italien directed “The Laramie Project,” which preached a strong message about acceptance through the tragic story of Matthew Shepard. 

“In the show, guys are taking advantage of these young, innocent factory girls and poisoning them. I think the message that women need to rise up is really important,” said Kallman. 

Junior Jonathan Eroh attended the Friday and Saturday shows and noticed the audience wasn’t as full as shows in the past. “I wish that more of our community would go and watch these plays because [drama club] puts in a lot of hard work and it goes uncredited because no one goes to see what they’ve done,” said Eroh. “I feel bad, but I know deep down that they’re having fun and that’s all that matters.” 

Even with the unfortunate turnout, the cast put on a passionate and emotional production. 

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