Austin College’s Theatre Department presents Melanie Marnich’s These Shining Lives in Ida Green Communication Center’s Beardsley Arena Theatre this week, Thursday through Saturday, March 24 to 26, at 7:30 each evening. Tickets, free to the campus community with ID, and $8 to the public, can be purchased at the door, though space is limited.
Each evening’s performance will be followed by a presentation by the Austin College Improv Troup. The play and Improv performances are featured in the Austin College Scholarship Conference.
Senior Olivia Trusty is the director of the production. “This project feels like it has been four years in the making, and I cannot believe it’s finally coming to fruition,” Olivia said. “These Shining Lives captured my attention from the first time I read it as it features strong women and a compelling story. This show is based on real-life events of the women of the Radial Dial Company, whose passion and work eventually led to their death, but their actions changed the world for women and workers everywhere.”
The play creates a story around the real lives of women in the 1920s who worked in a watch factory, painting watch faces that would glow in the dark and allow soldiers to see the time at night. The women enjoyed the independence of working and the paychecks that came with it.
After a few years, however, all the women were sick—some extremely sick—and finally it was revealed that they were working with radium and that it was known to be extremely dangerous, though they had been assured they had no reason for concern. Men in the factory wore protective clothing when handling radium; women, with no protection, learned to twist the paintbrushes between their lips to create a fine point for painting. They became known as the Radium Girls.
Olivia said the staging of this show was inspired by her hometown community theater, Artisan Center Theater in Hurst, Texas. “Seeing countless plays and musicals on their stage played a significant role in the design and execution of this show,” she said. “I am so excited for everyone to see it! I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to direct such an amazing show and work with such talented people.”
The Radium Girls, for this story, are Catherine, Charlotte, Frances, and Pearl. Tom Donahue is Catherine’s husband, and Rufus Reed is the factory boss. Each of the actors also takes on a number of other roles throughout the play.
The cast for the production:
Chloe Bachofen ’22 of Waco, Texas, as Catherine Donohue, a Radium Girl;
Rhys McComack-Morris ’22 of Fredericksburg, Texas, as Tom Donohue;
Catherine’s husband; Theresa Pohl ’23 of Castroville, Texas, as Charlotte Purcell, a Radium Girl;
Allie Straeck ’22 of Allen, Texas, Frances O’Connoll, a Radium Girl;
Kennedy Shumate ’25 of Seymour, Texas, Pearl Payne, a Radium Girl; and
William Bridgewater ’23 of Rusk, Texas, as Rufus Reed, the boss at the radium factory.
Members of the production staff:
Sydney Versen ’23 of Sugar Land, Texas, stage manager;
Deedee Jansen ’25 of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Elizabeth Funderburk ’24 of Wylie, Texas, assistant stage managers;
Liz Banks (faculty), lighting design;
Aguiele Ndoungla ’22 of Douala CAMEROON, lighting board operation;
Chase Chavez ’25 of Houston, sound design and board operation;
Dan Pucul, (theatre staff) scenic design;
Vanessa Baker (guest), Liz Banks (faculty), and Brooke Lee ’25 of Haltom City, Texas, costumes;
Megan Kiel ’24 of Dallas, Texas, props crew;
Mia Rios ’25 of Richmond, Texas, projection design and operations plus stage makeup artist; and
Sawyer Ahmad ’23 of Grapevine, Texas, props master plus house manager.
These Shining Lives is presented in special arrangement with Broadway Licensing, LLC, servicing the Dramatists Play Service collection.