Fort Dodge Senior High brings ‘Radium Girls’ to the stage

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Junior Nevaeh Caldeira plays dial painter Grace Fryer in the FDSH production of "Radium Girls."

Fort Dodge Senior High drama students are bringing to the stage a piece of American history that often gets overlooked, with the play adaptation of “Radium Girls.”

“Radium Girls” is a departure from recent comedy productions on the Little Theater stage.

“It was time for us to do something more serious, a drama,” said Director Lindey Krug. “I just stumbled on the title and when I read it, it fits our crew right now.”

The play is written for nine actors to play multiple characters, which allowed Krug to include more students in the cast.

“Since we have so much interest in our program, I was able to get 37 kids in the show,” Krug said.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
The Fort Dodge Senior High fall production is "Radium Girls," a drama based on the true story of the young women who worked with radium paint on watch dials during the 1920s and the harmful effect the of the yearslong radium poisoning.

“Radium Girls” tells the story of Kathryn Schaub, Grace Fryer and Irene Rudolph, three young ladies who worked as dial painters at the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation in Orange, New Jersey, during World War I. Using luminescent paint made with radium, the girls painted watch dials that would allow the wearer to see the time at night because of the glow-in-the-dark paint. Many of the consumers of the watches were American GIs in the war.

Sophomore Ella Champagne plays Kathryn Schaub, junior Nevaeh Caldeira plays Grace Fryer and junior Sol Birkey plays Irene Rudolph. In the story, the young ladies are just teens when they start working at the factory and over just a few years, their bodies begin to deteriorate from the radium poisoning. At the time in history, many experts believed radium was good for peoples’ health — something the workers at the dial making factories eventually discovered was not true.

The victims of the radium poisoning begin to seek justice for their suffering with the help of Katherine Wiley, executive director of the New Jersey Consumer’s League and advocate for the victims of radium poisoning, played by junior Camden Doster.

On the other side of the case is the U.S. Radium Company’s corporate lawyer Edward Markley, played by junior Evan Pratt.

“I’m a lawyer that’s a little bit morally gray,” Pratt said. “At the end of the day, I’m just going to fight for whoever pays me.”

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Junior Nevaeh Caldeira plays dial painter Grace Fryer and senior Britta McCollum plays her mother, Anna Fryer, in the FDSH production of "Radium Girls."

Krug looks at her role as fall play director as an extension of her classroom, emphasizing the “curricular” part of extra-curricular activities.

“There’s so much that happens in our history and we can only cover so much within the classroom, there’s only so much time,” she said. “This time I get the opportunity to teach them a little history.”

Many of the students had never heard of the Radium Girls of the 1910s and 1920s.

“What’s interesting about this story I feel like it’s a part of history that gets glossed over,” Pratt said.

With nearly 40 actors taking the stage in this production, “Radium Girls” is the largest fall play cast FDSH has had in a very long time.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Chloe Balm plays journalist Nancy Jane Harlan in the Fort Dodge Senior High production of "Radium Girls."

“When you have so many kids come out for your program, you want to give them the opportunity to do something, even if it’s just one scene or if it’s just five lines,” Krug said. “The size of the part doesn’t matter, the fact that they’re involved matters.”

The show opens 7 p.m. Nov. 4, with additional showings at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 5. Tickets are $5 for all ages and can be purchased at the door at the Little Theater at FDSH.


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