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Radium Girls

A play for family audiences. Suitable for educational theater and youth theater, it is also a popular choice among community theatres and small professional theaters. Available from Dramatic Publishing.


Resources:

Radium Girls Based on the true story of the dial painters who made labor history.

The story: 1926. Radium is a miracle cure, Madame Curie an international celebrity, and luminous watches the latest rage. Until the girls who paint those watch dials begin to die. Based on the true story of the women and men who worked for the U.S. Radium Corporation in Orange, N.J., and originally written for nine actors to double into 38 roles. Radium Girls is a fast-paced stage play. A wry examination of the commercialization of science and the twin American obsessions with the pursuit of health and wealth makes this original drama from DW Gregory a continually relevant and entertaining choice for production.

Awards & Acclaim

Published by Dramatic Publishing
Finalist, Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference
Finalist, New Harmony Project
National Endowment for the Arts production grant
Best new play of 1999 – 2000, Newark Star-Ledger
Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project grant, 2001
Winner, Best Production, The Burlington PlayersAACTFEST 2013

“… an engrossing new drama … The playwright lays out the facts with historical accuracy, descriptive simplicity, and graphic candor.” – Daily Variety

“…a genuine theatrical gift.” – Chicago Stage Review

“… a playwright with a talent to enlighten and provoke.” – the New York Times

“Radium Girls may speak to our collective capacity for denial. But it also celebrates our individual courage.” – The Daily Record, Morristown, N.J.

“The best new play in New Jersey professional theatre.” – The Newark Star Ledger

Production History

Originally produced at Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey. Directed by Joseph Megel.  John Pietrowski, producing artistic director.

Radium Girls has received nearly 300 productions worldwide since its premiere, including shows in London, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. A popular title in educational theater and in youth theater, it is widely produced by university and high school producing troupes as well as community theaters and small professional theaters. 

Burlington Players, of Burlington, Mass., just won the American Association of Community Theatres' National Competition with their production of my approved cutting of the play. 

Check back here in the fall for more details about a new one-act version suitable for UIL-approved drama stage play competitions. 

Production Details

A UIL-approved drama stage play for high school theater competitions,  Radium Girls is also suitable for professional theater and community theater companies. The large cast play features many strong roles for females, making it a popular choice among school theater programs. Written for nine to 10 actors to double into 38 parts, this drama can be performed by smaller casts in competition, doubling parts among four to five males and five females.  Suitable for general audiences, this highly acclaimed original play examines the constant push-and-pull of American capitalism against perenniel questions of responsibility to one’s community and one’s conscience. Radium Girls draws from a stunning chapter in U.S. labor history and the history of science and ties well into multiple aspects of the middle school and high school curriculum. Among community theaters, it has been a popular choice for production during Women’s History Month.

Run time: 2 hours, 10 minutes with an intermission. 

 

Production Tips

Radium Girls Cast

Below are suggested doublings for major speaking parts:

With 9 actors:
ACTOR 1: GRACE
ACTOR 2: KATHRYN/BOARD MEMBER#1/SHOPGIRL/SOCIETYWOMAN/HARRIET
ACTOR 3: IRENE/MISS WILEY/BOARDMEMBER #2/PHOTOGRAPHER/MRS. MICHAELS
ACTOR 4: SOB SISTER/CLERK/ELDERLY WIDOW/MRS. FRYER/MACNEIL
ACTOR 5: MRS. ROEDER/MADAME CURIE/CUSTOMER/BOARD MEMBER#3
ACTOR 6: LEE/DRINKER/BAILEY/ FLINN/MALE SHOPPER/COURT/LOVESICK COWBOY
ACTOR 7: TOM/REPORTER/BERRY/KNEF/
ACTOR 8: MARKLEY/ VON SOCHOCKY/STORE OWNER/VENECINE SALESMAN/MARTLAND
ACTOR 9: ROEDER
 
With 10 actors:
ACTOR 1: GRACE
ACTOR 2: KATHRYN/SOCIETYWOMAN/HARRIET/SHOPGIRL/BOARD MEMBER#1/
ACTOR 3: IRENE/MISS WILEY/BOARD MEMBER#2/MRS. MICHAELS
ACTOR 4: SOB SISTER/MACNEIL/CLERK/MRS. FRYER
ACTOR 5: MRS. ROEDER/MADAME CURIE/CUSTOMER/BOARD MEMBER#3/
ACTOR 6: LEE/BAILEY/DRINKER/LOVESICK COWBOY/MALE SHOPPER/COURT
ACTOR 7: BERRY/MARTLAND/FLINN/STORE OWNER/
ACTOR 8: TOM/REPORTER/KNEF/VENECINE SALESMAN
ACTOR 9: MARKLEY/VON SOCHOCKY//ELDERLY WIDOW/PHOTOGRAPHER
ACTOR 10: ROEDER
 
The action in this stage drama takes place in a variety of places in and around Orange, N.J., between 1918 and 1928. The style is meant to be cinematic, briskly paced and mixing naturalistic scenes with more comic, presentational scenes. Of necessity, set and furnishings must be simple: eight wooden chairs and two or three narrow tables, which remain at all times, works best. Such a set should accommodate fluid transitions from scene to scene; in fact, certain scenes are meant to be transitional---taking place while the set is changed. A sense of  place is created by the rearrangement of the tables and chairs, with the help of lights, sound, props, and costumes, to suggest different locations---home, factory, office, hospital, etc. All set changes  are to be effected by the actors in view of the audience, and props should be minimal. Costume changes, too, must be simple---only what is needed to present a transformation to new characters.