By David Rogers. September 29, 2017. BOONE, NC – When some 4,000 female factory workers found jobs painting luminous faces on watches in 1917, most surely thought they had died and gone to heaven. For at least some, they would be finding heaven much sooner than they expected.
“Radium Girls,” a play by D.W. Gregory and performed in Boone’s Valborg Theatre by the Appalachian State University Department of Theatre and Dance and directed by Gordon Hensley, takes on the very human side of discovering that a miracle cure, radium (shrinks tumors), is also the culprit behind a rash of illnesses among the factory workers.
INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR GORDON HENSLEY
Radium Girls is inspired by a true story of Grace Fryer, one of those dial painters, fighting for a day in court. The play provokes an audience to consider the consequences of consumerism and the uniquely American “bottom line” mentality. In doing so, it conveys an important message of social consciousness, but even in otherwise tragic circumstances incorporates the kind of humor that only human beings can bring to a situation.
Hensley noted to Blowing Rock News that radium was widely believed to be non-hazardous in the early 1920s and even before. “The element was included in women’s makeup, mixed with water, and even believed to be a cure for cancer.
“As a society,” he added, “we tend to jump onboard with the latest trend without necessarily knowing that it may be hazardous to our health.
“A primary focus of this play,” he continued, “is a theme of ‘dying from within’ – both the physical decay of the women suffering from radium’s effects, as well as the moral decay of the male employers who do not stand up for their employees for fear of losing their jobs.”
INTERVIEW WITH LEAD ACTORS
With 30 roles to be played by just 10 actors, the play presents an interesting challenge for even the most accomplished thespian. Hensley explained that the production’s design team uses simple props and costume pieces, as well as distinctive pools of light to suggest a change in environment or character.
“By adopting a presentational style of acting that blends both realism and non-realism,” observed Hensley, “we hope to emphasize the storyline over the spectacle.”
The show runs October 4-8 (only five performances). The curtain rises on the October 4-7 performances at 7:00 pm, with a matinee performance at 2:00 pm on October 8th.
Tickets may be purchased at the Valborg Theatre box office, at 828-262-3063; the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts box office, toll free at 800-841-ARTS (2787), or by CLICKING HERE.