Southern Regional Theatre Company Performing ‘Radium Girls’

Nov 01, 2017

The stage of Southern Regional High School’s Joseph P. Echle Performing Arts Center, located in the district’s 9/10 building, will be aglow at 7 p.m. this Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 1 and 2, when the Southern Regional Theatre Company presents “Radium Girls.”

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and may be purchased at the door.

In 1926 radium was a miracle cure, Madame Curie an international celebrity, and luminous watches were the latest rage. There was only one problem – the girls who painted those watches began to fall ill with a mysterious disease.

“Radium Girls” is based on a true story, and a New Jersey story at that. The U.S. Radium Corp. in Orange produced the popular glow-in-the-dark watches. The paintbrushes used in the process had to be sharply pointed to obtain speed and accuracy, so the girls painting the watches were instructed to keep their brush points sharp by inserting them in their mouths.

The tedious work led to cramped fingers and backaches. But it was the moistening of the brush points that was responsible for additional symptoms such as bleeding mouths, loss of teeth and deterioration of jawbones and even death.

Enter Grace Farley (actually a composite of three real life victims), a predecessor to women such as Karen Silkwood and Erin Brockovich, who decides to fight for her day in court. Her chief adversary is her former employer, Arthur Roeder, an idealistic man who cannot bring himself to believe that the same element that shrinks tumors could have anything to do with the terrifying rash of illnesses among his employees. He, after all, drinks “energizing” radium water for his own health!

As the case goes on, Grace finds herself battling not just with the U.S. Radium Corp. but with her own family and friends, who fear that her campaign for justice will backfire.  —R.M.


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