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Old Town Playhouse Puts on “Radium Girls”

A local Traverse City theater’s rendition of a story about young women being slowly poisoned by radium in dial painting factories
Photo Courtesy: Old Town Playhouse

  Over the first two weekends of April, the local downtown theater, the Old Town Playhouse, put on a production of a well-known production of “Radium Girls.” 

  “[“Radium Girls”] is a story of young women that work in the dial painting factories, which used a paint that has radium to paint the dials, which would glow in the dark and be used for planes during the war. The hundreds of women [that worked in the factories] were slowly being poisoned by the radium, so many of them were dying from horrible things; their jaws would fall off, it was really awful. So [the women affected] decided to sue the company for compensation and the company denied everything; it was really really bad,” freshman and actress Wren Walter said. 

  Two students from the school were able to receive leading roles in the production. Junior Lucy Bodie portrayed the character Kathryn Schaub, and freshman Wren Walter portrayed the character Grace Fryer. 

  “I play Grace [Fryer], which is who I wanted. Grace is the center of the story. She goes to work at the factory and gets poisoned, so she goes to Miss. Wiley [another character] who is the director of the New Jersey Consumers League, and they sue the company together,” Walter said. 

  Grace Freyer is seen as the main character, but she has two other friends who are seemingly connected, which is where Kathryn Schaub, actress Lucy Bodie, plays a part. 

  “I play Kathryn Schaub, she is one of [Grace’s friends], also Irene Rudolph [another character], the three girls are a group. Kathryn and Irene are cousins. [She] ends up dying in part of it. Also, she is a dial painter,” junior and actress, Lucy Bodie said. 

  In this particular story, there is a lot of death portrayed by the actors and actresses because of radium poisoning, which is something that is not always seen in many productions. It is a different scene for actors to have to act in, but most actors are up for the challenge when they are presented with it. 

  “Both the [roles] I played in the old town playhouse end up dying and it’s fun because with this show, there is progression throughout [the scenes]. In the beginning, I have like eye bags and my jaw is slowly rotting and I have a wheelchair, and then in the end there are ghosts and death,” Bodie said. 

  With all of the ties back to radium and the death from radium, the STEM 10 classes had been given the opportunity to have a chance to watch the production. 

  “Mrs. Bartley is the head of the STEM and she worked so that students could go to the dress rehearsal for free” English and STEM 10 teacher Kelly Rintala said. 

  The amazing opportunity to watch the show was because Radium Girls is one of the books that these students are able to read in class to apply to their classroom learnings and future classes. 

  “The students are [working on] reading and analyzing the text, specifically for tone, so we want to prepare them for their junior year, and because a lot of them will be taking AP Lang; tone is an important concept there, it is an introduction of, “Here’s how we analyze tone and some of the things we think about.” So that’s what they are doing with the text, but then also hopefully thinking about the science and connecting it,” Rintala said.

  STEM is not only a WSH class, but it is also available at Central High School as well. Due to this, the classes have similar projects, and they are both able to engage in scientific reading. With the books available, students learn about how to apply them to their reading skills, but they also learn about many other concepts as they read; they get a historical component and a scientific component too. 

  “Both sides of town, Central and West, wanted a couple of choices of non-fiction books for our STEM 10 kids to work on. The [STEM] teacher at Central really wanted to do “Radium Girls,” which is a really good story to connect to chemistry which is what tenth graders take [for science]. Then we also selected “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” which is a non-fiction story that connects to chemistry and radium, so we came up with that together because they are both science-related stories. They are true stories, but they are also good books to read,” Rintala said.

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Alexa Bageris
Alexa Bageris, Social Media Specialist
Alexa Bageris is a Junior in her first year of newspaper. She decided to take newspaper because she wanted to try something new. Alexa is a reporter for the newspaper team, writing lots of exciting stories. Outside of school, she loves playing tennis, hanging out with her friends and family, reading, watching movies, and being outside.

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