Silver Spring Stage presents These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich, directed by Bob Benn and produced by Seth Ghitelman, the powerful true story of the strength and determination of women working in a 1920's clock factory exposed to toxic chemicals. Theirs is an inspirational story of survival and courage to save other workers from harm. These Shining Lives will perform weekends October 26 to November 17.
Silver Spring Stage is located in the Woodmoor Shopping Center, lower level (next to the CVS) at Colesville Road and University Boulevard. Ticket prices are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors and students. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM, and Sundays November 4 and 11 at 2:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased at www.ssstage.org. Information is also available by calling (301) 593-6036.
"These women in their tragedy reached their potential and power as human beings, because they stood up and did something," said Melanie Marnich, writer of These Shining Lives, about the real life women who unknowingly got sick from their work and fought for their lives. The Radium Dial Company was started in Chicago in 1917. By 1922 the company had moved to a former high school building in Ottawa, Illinois where it remained until the mid 1930s. At the highest point in production (around 1925), the Radium Dial Company employed around 1,000 young women who turned out around 4,300 dials each day. The product used on the dials of the clocks to make them glow was a mixture of phosphorus and radium called Luna. The women mixed glue, water and radium powder, and then used camel hair brushes to apply the glowing paint onto dials. The brushes would lose shape after a few strokes, so the U.S. Radium supervisors encouraged their workers to point the brushes with their lips, or use their tongues to keep them sharp. For fun, the Radium Girls painted their nails, teeth and faces with the deadly paint produced at the factory. The women earned a penny and half a dial (now 27 cents) for painting 250 dials a day. The women, including Catherine Donahue, the heroine of These Shining Lives, and her friends started to get sick. They suffered from anemia and fractured bones. They were becoming sick from radiation poisoning and many died. The company denied radium was the cause, even as they knew there were potential health risks. The women fought back and sued. Their courageous stand led to labor rights: the right of individual workers to sue for damages and industrial safety standards were enacted. Marnich adds: "It's easy to look in the past -- at the 1910s, '20s, '30s, the Depression era -- and say, 'Oh my gosh, this is when big business did the little person wrong, but we're still facing these same issues over and over: David versus Goliath." These Shining Lives offers a compelling and inspiring story that is still meaningful nearly a hundred years later.
Catherine (Caitlyn Conley) and Tom Donahue (David Dieudonné) are a young couple trying to make ends meet in the 1920's: he as a construction worker and she with a new job at the factory painting clock faces. For Catherine, the pay is good and she has made wonderful friends Pearl (Annette Kalicki), Frances (HArlene Leahy) and Charlotte (Toni Carmine). Pearl is full of jokes and seeks attention. Frances is the conscience of the group. Charlotte is the tough one with her own flair. One night, Tom meets Catherine on the street after work and sees that she literally glows. The romantic moment fades as the radiation poison slowly works its way through the women. Time has passed into the 1930's and the Great Depression where the pressure to keep a job means more exposure to the toxin. The company through their supervisor Mr. Reed (Bob Scott) covers up the reason, even the doctor (Jonathan Dyer) tells them aspirin will cure them. One by one the women are fired as they can't work. The survivors hire a lawyer (Seth Ghitelman) who wages their legal fight, which comes at a bitter price. These Shining Lives will swell audience's hearts with pathos and pride.
The production team includes Jerry Schuchman (Stage Manager), Bob Benn (Set Design), Mike House and Jamie Coupar (Sound Design), Peter Caress (Light Design), HArlene Leahy (Costume Design), and Sonya Okin (Props/Set Dressing).
Silver Spring Stage continues its 2012-2013 season with A Christmas Carol (Dec 7-Dec 16). Expecting Isabel by Lisa Loomer (Jan 11-Feb 2), The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard (Feb 22-Mar 6), Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan (Apr 5-Apr 27), The Little Dog Laughed by Douglas Carter Beane (May 17-Jun 8), and Red Herring by Michael Hollinger (Jun 28-Jul 27).
Silver Spring Stage has provided quality, affordable theatre for over 40 years. We are an all-volunteer, non- profit organization and appreciate any contribution to enable us to offer excellent and entertaining productions. Thank you for your interest and support of Silver Spring Stage. All programs at Silver Spring Stage are made possible in part by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.