Radium is a miracle cure, Madame Curie is an international celebrity and luminous watches are the latest rage. That is until the girls who paint those watches begin to die.
Radium Girls is a play based on the true story of these women and men who worked for the U.S. Radium Corp. in Orange, New Jersey, and Crawfordsville High School students will “go back in time” to perform this original drama from DW Gregory.
Performances will be at 7 p.m. today and Saturday in the high school auditorium.
“This play is a fictionalized version of an actual story that took place,” said director Barry Pool. “The girls started at age 15 and up. They worked at the U.S. Radium Corp. and their first claim to fame was that they mixed paint with radium. They painted the numbers on the watch dials. They were dial painters, so in World War II, the boys in the field could see the time at night.”
The dial painters would stick the brushes in their mouth to make a fine tip at the end of the brush. This allowed small amounts of radium to be ingested.
“Problem was, there were no protection policies put into place for the young ladies,” Pool said. “Within five to six years, they would start getting very sick and their jaws would start to disintegrate because the radium acts like calcium and it tells your bones that you have enough calcium. So, this story is about the ladies who had to fight against the corporation to get their bills paid. We show both sides of the story on a corporation level and the girls who are fighting them.”
Eleven students will play 37 roles in Radium Girls.
“We have been practicing four nights a week for six to eight weeks,” Pool said.
Among the cast members are five seniors, Sara Adams, Haley Burke, Annie Wilson, Isabella de Assis-Wilson and Gracie Hutchinson. Each girl plans to go to college and pursue theater in the future.