THE BASICS: RADIUM GIRLS, by D.W. Gregory, featuring a dozen BAVPA students, grades 9-12, has one more performance scheduled, this Saturday night, July 1, 2017, at 8 p.m. at The Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Avenue (use the entrance closest to Elmwood Avenue). Runtime: 75 minutes without intermission. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for students. Bottled water for $1.00. Volunteers at the entrance will take you to the third floor on an original Pierce-Arrow automobile elevator. It’s fun! (408-0499). www.subversivetheatre.org
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Around the time of WWI, the element Radium was touted as a miracle cure for diseases including cancer. It also had a business application: glow in the dark dials for watches and instruments first used by the military, but then adopted enthusiastically by consumers. Keeping up with demand, young women were employed as radium dial painters and encouraged for “efficiency” to use their mouths to “point” the brushes. As they began to suffer from chemical poisoning, a legal battle ensued: the “girls” versus big business. To quote from Subversive’s website: “In the face of corporate denials, male chauvinism, and a staggering bastardization of science, one defiant rank-and-file worker mounts a campaign for justice that just may cost her everything.”
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: This is not a “review,” since it is a student performance. I can tell you there were very few awkward moments on stage and that some of the leads were performing at a college level, especially Corinne Mcloughlin and Aurora Anderson who played the central characters “Grace” and her friend “Kathryn.”
Because the story is so compelling and because industrial abuse and corporate bullying keeps happening over and over (for a recent example look at the working conditions of young Chinese women employed to assemble cell phones) it’s a play worth seeing.
The play was ably directed by Kelly Beuth who is a Performing Arts teacher at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts (part of the Buffalo City School District) and a member of the “Subversive Theatre Collective.” Ms. Beuth is also credited with the sound (including some very creepy tracks!) as well as the informative projections which provided background information. Beuth and Maureen Caputo came up with the costumes, which worked well, and Kurt Schneiderman’s lighting added a special 1930’s horror movie touch. Stage Manager Allison Bindics kept things moving, especially scene changes, not an easy thing to do using the cramped confines of the Manny Fried stage.
According to the publicity, RADIUM GIRLS first premiered in 2000 and that since that time it has enjoyed nearly 300 performances all over the world. Author D.W. Gregory is a Pulitzer Prize nominated writer and one of the most active women playwrights in America today. The play was presented through special arrangement with the Dramatic Publishing Company. This is the 7th edition of the “Subversive Youth Series.” It was my first but I’ll make a point to attend next season. And this season, tonight, you have one more chance to see RADIUM GIRLS. When you go, though, dress in light clothing, as the small theater does get a bit warm.