By Alycia Gilb
Once again, the College’s Lyric Theatre demonstrated that no matter the circumstances, the show must go on — and this show went off without a hitch. After working on the show for just about three weeks, Lyric Theatre’s troupe of 14 actors presented “Radium Girls” on Feb 25.
“Radium Girls” takes place in New Jersey in 1926, where radium was used to cure just about anything. The show follows three women who worked in a factory, painting watch dials with radium to make them glow in the dark. When the women of the factory start passing away from mysterious illnesses, word starts to get around that these young women’s deaths were caused by radium poisoning from touching their paint brushes to their lips.
When Grace Fryer (Lara Becker), and fellow factory workers Kathryn (Alexis Marta) and Irene (Amy Schroeder) fall ill with radium poisoning, Fryer decides to take action to sue the factory. The play continues to uncover the harrowing suffering of the radium girls and the corrupt underworkings of the American Radium company.
To perform the show, the cast set themselves up behind their cameras in subtle costume and makeup — a makeshift version of what they would usually wear during stage performance. The actors each changed their Zoom name to their characters’ names, which helped the audience identify the characters during the show. Students “entered” and “exited” the stage by turning their cameras on and off.
Stage directions were also read aloud to give the audience an idea of what would be happening if the actors had the chance to move about on stage. True to live theatre, there was even a five-minute intermission mid show, where a link was placed in the chat for viewers to consider donating to members of the College’s community who have been affected by Covid-19.
Kaitlin Davis, director of the College’s Lyric Theatre, said that she picked this play to really challenge her students as actors.
“Lyric theatre also really prides itself on being social justice oriented and unfortunately we just don’t hear [these] stories told,” she added. “They’re not something that’s covered in our history books.” Since “Radium Girls” is based in New Jersey, students also got the opportunity to work with a show that dealt with local history.
While Davis admitted that the biggest challenge of putting a play together virtually was developing chemistry between the actors, she was very pleased with how the show turned out.
“I’m not used to watching opening night in my bedroom in a sweatshirt,” she joked in an interview after the show. Her favorite part of “Radium Girls” was seeing how much her students grew as actors in the process.
Even though the play was performed over Zoom, the cast of “Radium Girls” handled the situation with professionalism and grace. The show was seamless and gripping, and the stage was hardly missed as the cast took to their new Zoom “stage” with ease. With emotional dialogue and flawless chemistry even through a screen, “Radium Girls” was a treat to watch.