“Radium Girls” Illuminates Mainstage Theatre  

Baldwin Wallace students illuminated the Mainstage Theatre at Kleist Center for Art and Drama with a staged reading of “Radium Girls” during the weekend of March 18-19.  

“Radium Girls” is a one-act play by D.W. Greggory, and it was directed at BW by Assistant Professor of Theater Anjanette Hall. The play follows the true story of female dial painters who worked in the U.S. Radium Plant in the 1920s.  

The women would use the glow-in-the-dark radium to paint the dials, putting the brush bristles in their mouths to create a finer tip to paint faster. Unbeknownst to them, the radium was causing fatal health issues.  

“What they found was that the radium was causing cancer,” Hall said, ‘they started to die, these women did. And so, this is a story about that whole journey.” 

The character Grace Fryer, the worker who stands at the center of this production, decides to battle the corporation who brought physical harm to her and all other workers who painted the dials with radium.  

Assistant director Jules Ringler, a junior Acting and Directing major, said Radium Girls is “a story that involves all women and anybody that has been affected by terminal illness.” 

With a cast of 10 students, most actors had to portray multiple characters. They used minimal props and no set, so the students had to rely on their voices and physical behaviors to portray their different characters.  

“It’s a lot of work about ‘how do I make my voice sound different for five different people even though I have one voice?’” said first-year Maya Norman, who mainly plays Kathryn. “You get to connect with the text in a way and focus more on how you’re saying than just what you’re saying.” 

The cast members prepared for “Radium Girls” by delving deep into the text and formulating their characters based on the words in the script. Norman said that she focused on the inflections within her voice, as well as her mannerisms, to differentiate between her various characters. 

During the performances, the cast would occasionally look up from their scripts in order to engage with each other and the audience. Even with this, Ringler said that the focus remained on bringing the words of the text to life. 

“Staged readings give you the luxury to not focus on spectacle,” Ringler said. “You just focus on the meat of the play.” 

Through this historical play, audiences bore witness to the bravery of Grace Fryer and her co-workers in battling against the corporation. The format in which the play was presented did not detract from its courage in the face of adversity.  

“It’s about taking a journey through the storytelling of anything–whether it’s a staged reading or a full-mounted production,” Hall said. “The hope is that you are hit somehow, that you are changed somehow, that you are brought to your knees to think about some really important things.”