Written by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Craig Allen Mummey
May 9 - May 31, 2014
Run time: 2h 30m
This poetic play tells the true story of four young women who began working in the Westclox Radium Dial Company near Chicago in 1922. Women had only recently won the right to vote and the license to work outside the home. For 11 years, the company employed over 1000 women to paint numbers on the faces of their clocks and watches using radium powder. Catherine Donohue and her co-workers develop deep, supportive friendships, but ultimately they must confront truths that both they and the company have been evading for years. The women are developing serious illnesses and their work with radium is the cause. Melanie Marnich’s play illuminates the lives and spirits of these ordinary women, shedding light that flares into incandescence as their story ends.
To download the production postcard for These Shining Lives to share with your friends, visit the Downloads page of our website and look under the Production Postcard heading. A PDF of the playbill is also available in the same location under the Production Playbills heading!
About the Playwright
Melanie Marnich is a playwright who also has extensive experience as a television producer and writer. She is best known for her work on the HBO drama Big Love, which earned her a nomination for a Writers Guild of America award in 2010. She also has been a writer and producer for The Big C, a Showtime television series. Seventeen of her plays have been produced in regional theaters across the United States and in England. These Shining Lives, which had its world premiere six years ago at Center Stage in Baltimore, was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Weissberger Award. Two of her plays, Quake and Tallgrass Gothic, were initially produced at Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays, and her adaptation of Katie Couric’s book, The Brand New Kid, premiered at the Kennedy Center in 2006. Ms. Marnich’s awards include two McKnight Advancement Grants, two Jerome Fellowships, and the Samuel Goldwyn Award. She is married to playwright Lee Blessing, whose plays Two Rooms and Going to St. Ives have been produced by Colonial Players.
About the Director
Craig Allen Mummey has been working in theater since 1991 and directing since 1997. At CP: Lettice and Lovage, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Jekyll & Hyde, Assassins, Arcadia, Rebecca, On Golden Pond, Rumors. At Silver Spring Stage: The Pillowman (WATCH nomination for best play), Blackbird (Ruby Griffith Award), The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? (WATCH Award, Ruby Griffith Award), Dinner with Friends, The Cripple of Inishmaan. Elsewhere: The Glass Menagerie (Ruby Griffith Award, WATCH nomination), The Heiress (Ruby Griffith Award), The Nerd, Marvin’s Room – all at Bowie Community Theatre; Hair – Kensington Arts Theatre; Dancing at Lughnasa – Quotidian Theatre. Craig has also been an actor, stage manager, and set designer, among other things. He has been active in management roles as well, having served on the boards at three different theaters, as well as WATCH. He dedicates this show to his sister and her daughters.
We heard the scientist in France, Marie Curie, could not believe “the manner in which we worked” and how we tasted that pretty paint a hundred times a day. Now, even our crumbling bones will glow forever in the black earth. – from the poem “Radium Girls” by Eleanor Swanson
The most important thing to remember about the characters you will see today is that they were real people, and their story was real. Though creative license has been used to imagine their conversations, the spine of the story is factual. Orange, NJ. Waterbury, CT. Ottawa, IL. Hundreds of women painted dials at clock factories in these towns in the 1920s and ‘30s. Women had recently gained the right to vote, and other new opportunities and freedoms were opening up for women all the time. It was an age of wonder, including a new substance – radium – that some people thought would be the greatest achievement of the century. Some of the women painted their fingernails or teeth with the glowing paint to amuse their friends and loved ones. It was funny. It was steady work. It was good money. It was folly. It was not long before strange health problems began cropping up among the dial painters. A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported the death of Mae Keane, at 107 “perhaps the last living participant in a particularly dark moment in American industrial history.” Mrs. Keane had worked one summer at the Waterbury Clock Company in 1924, but according to the Times, she didn’t care for the taste and texture of the radium-tinged paint, and management was not happy with her apparent lack of skill: “After a few months, she was gone. It was the summer of 1924. She was 18. Within two decades she had lost all her teeth.” Women who became ill from effects of radium poisoning sometimes lost not only their teeth but also their jawbones. They suffered from infections and cancer. And though Mrs. Keane lost her teeth and suffered through two bouts of cancer, she somehow managed to live on, most likely because her stint in the factory was so brief. With her passing, it seems the Radium Girls, as they were dubbed, are all relegated to memory. But they continue to inspire. These women live on now not just in photographs and old newspaper clippings, but in poetry, in books, and in plays like this one. These Shining Lives is not melodrama. It is not particularly polemical. The thrust of the piece is not about corporate greed, or labor reform, or the costs of pursuing – and achieving – the American Dream. Instead, it focuses on the relationships between Catherine and her husband, and among Catherine and her co-workers. What I find most compelling about these characters is that no matter what other qualities they display, above all else they illuminate the strength of the human spirit to stick together, to persevere, and to prevail. We tell their story not as a call to action, but simply because these women are worth knowing, worth remembering, worth honoring. Orange, NJ. Waterbury, CT. Ottawa, IL. Here’s to all the Radium Girls – may their memories continue to shine brightly.
– CRAIG ALLEN MUMMEY
Ben Carr (Tom Donohue) - Ben is excited to be back performing at Colonial Players. Some of his previous roles at CP include Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman, Mike Conner in The Philadelphia Story, Michael Wells in Two Rooms, and Hertel Daggett in Dog Logic. He has also performed at Standing O Productions in Retreat From Moscow and Tracers and at Dignity Players in Stones in His Pocket. He would like to thank Craig and the rest of the cast for making this such a wonderful experience. "Most importantly, I would like to tell my wife, Cassie, that I love you and thank you for giving me the greatest treasure of all...twice!”
Dave Carter (Mr. Reed, Radio Announcer, Son, Leonard Grossman) - Dave is excited to be back performing at Colonial Players after playing the villainous Julian earlier this season in Communicating Doors and stage managing last season’s Taking Steps. He is proud to be a part of bringing the amazing story of These Shining Lives to the stage. He will also be involved as a director for the summer's One Act Play Festival. Most of his theater experience was on the West Coast, where he was involved with shows such as Lend Me a Tenor, Oedipus, and Our Country’s Good. His training began with Citrus College and extended to The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Dave feels that most of what he brings to the stage comes from the people he has worked with in the theater as well as the great thing we call Life.
Josette Dubois (Frances, Reporter 2) - Josette is pleased to be making her return to theater after a hiatus of more than two years. Previous credits on this stage include: A Christmas Carol (2006, 2007, and 2008), Moon Over Buffalo (Eileen), The Game (Life), Trifles (Mrs. Peters), She Loves Me (Customer), Les Liaisions Dangereuses (Emilie), The Curious Savage (Florence), and Sonata (Adult Beth). Other past credits include: Thoroughly Modern Millie (Interpreter) and Quilters at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, The Crucible (Abigail Williams) at Dignity Players, and The Rocky Horror Show (Phantom) with Factory Edge Theatre Works. Josette would like to thank her co-workers for covering her shifts during rehearsals and performances and her boyfriend for putting up with her many late nights.
Eric Hufford (Dr. Rowntree, Company Doctor, Dr. Dalitsch, Tom Donohue u/s) - Eric is happy to be back for his fifth production at Colonial Players. Previously, he has been seen as Leslie Bainbridge in Taking Steps, Thomas Jefferson in 1776, Fred and Young Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, and as Sheriff Joe Sutter in The Spitfire Grill. He got his start in theater in high school and portrayed Tom in Schoolhouse Rock Live! in college. He reconnected with his love for theater portraying Pharaoh in Drama Learning Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and appearing as Daniel Beauxhomme in Red Branch Theatre’s Once on This Island. He also portrayed Jesus in Opera AACC’s Jesus Christ Superstar. “I’d like to give a big thank you to all of my friends who continually come out and support my performance, and to Sarah for always supporting me in everything I do."
Krissy McGregor (Charlotte, Reporter 1) - After a five-year performing hiatus, Krissy is pleased to be returning to the stage and making her debut with Colonial Players. She has previously performed with the Little Theatre of Alexandria in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Helena), Into the Woods (Lucinda), and The Will Rogers Follies (Ziegfeld’s Favorite – WATCH nomination). She also enjoys directing and choreographing, having worked with 2nd Star Productions, Laurel Mill Playhouse, Little Theatre of Alexandria, Pensacola Little Theater, Pensacola Children’s Chorus, Fort Walton Beach High School, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, and HB Woodlawn. She sends her love and gratitude to her husband, Scott, for supporting her in this time-consuming hobby.
Aricia Skidmore-Willilams (Pearl, Daughter, Judge) - This is Aricia’s second performance with Colonial Players, and she’s thrilled to be back in the round! Previously, she appeared in In the Next Room, Or the Vibrator Play, and she’s excited to be taking on a very different role in These Shining Lives. Aricia resides in Baltimore, where she spends her free time doing puzzles, buying shoes, and entering unofficial dance-offs. She would like to thank Craig for giving her this opportunity and the cast and crew for making this another unforgettable experience. Aricia is forever grateful to her parents for being unwavering beams of support for all of her endeavors. She’d also like to thank her two brothers for being consistent rocks for her and her friends-especially her unofficial twin-for believing in her when she forgets to believe in herself. Enjoy the show!
Sarah Wade (Catherine Donohue) - Sarah is very pleased to be back on the CP stage after a brief run at Dignity Players as Lisa Morrison in Collected Stories. Prior to that, she appeared in CP's Annie as Star to Be, Communicating Doors as Jessica Welles, and Taking Steps as Kitty. She also performed in the 2012 short play festival Bits ‘n' Pieces as Ionesco in The Shepherd's Chameleon and The Girl in Starcrossed. She was also seen as the Widow Sowerberry/Bet in Compass Rose Theater's production of Oliver!, as well as sound designing their productions of The Miracle Worker and To Kill a Mockingbird. She sends tons of love to her family and friends and to Eric for always understanding that, "I can't, I have rehearsal." “Special thanks to Lois Evans and Carol Cohen, without whom I wouldn't be here.”
The Production Staff
Danny Brooks (Stage Manager) Danny has performed in four Craig Mummey-directed productions, three here at CP (Arcadia, Assassins, and Lettice and Lovage), and is happy to be working with him again, this time in a different "role." He last stage managed CP's 2012 Chapter Two. “Break legs, cast.”
Alex Brady (Lighting Designer) Alex has been designing lighting locally in Annapolis and Baltimore since 2002. Over the last 15 years, he has worked with diverse companies such as Everyman Theater, the Annapolis Opera, and the AACC Dance Company. His recent lighting design credits include Peter Pan at St. Mary’s High School, Anything Goes at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, and Flying by the Seat of Our Pants with the AACC Dance Company. Alex is a proud alumni of the Graduate Institute at St. John's College and teaches for the Humanities Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Alex is also a student and practitioner of the 14th century German longsword, the arming sword and buckler, and the 17th century Italian dueling saber with the Mid-Atlantic Society for Historic Swordsmanship. He will happily present his skills (and bruises) for any interested parties.
Joann Gidos (Properties Designer and Set Decoration) JoAnn is so very pleased to be working with Craig again. This theater season she has worked on Bad Dates at Bay Theater and Look Homeward Angel and Romeo and Juliet at Compass Rose Theater, and is helping with 39 Steps at Dignity Players. She was one of five people nominated last season for a WATCH award for properties design for her work on the Colonial Players production of Shipwrecked.
Barbara Marder (Producer) Barbara has been associated with Colonial Players for more than 25 years. She has served on the board as Education/Special Projects Director and has been a member of a variety of committees, including Play Selection and Promising Playwrights Play Selection. She has also and been a play consultant for many short plays. Barbara directed last season’s Taking Steps. Prior directing assignments for Colonial Players include Splendour and a full-length staged reading of the Promising Playwright winning script Coal Creek. Barbara retired as chairman of Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College, where she directed a wide variety of plays and musicals over a 35-year career. She served as an adjudicator for the American College Theatre Festival for many years, as a board member of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and as a theater panelist for the Maryland State Arts Council. Currently, she enjoys working part time as a standard patient and role player for local medical schools.
Laurie Nolan (Set Designer) Laurie has been working on sets at Colonial Players since the late seventies, when she had the great pleasure to work with Beth and Dick Whaley on Royal Gambit. A favorite set was for Road to Mecca, which was about an artist. Most recently, she has designed sets at Dignity Players, including Art, and Collected Stories. Laurie enjoys the challenge of the more "abstract" sets that involve lots of painting and color. She owns Art Things, Inc. in West Annapolis, a business founded by her mother, Lydia, in 1966. Both parents were supporters of Colonial Players, so she caught the theater bug early.
Keith Norris (Sound Designer) Keith has produced and edited sound effects and tracks for the local theater circuit since 2005. His work has been experienced by audiences attending Annie, A Christmas Carol, Damn Yankees, 1776, It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and Jekyll and Hyde. He is excited to be working with Colonial Players and such a dynamic and outstanding cast.
Beth Terranova (Costume Designer) Beth is pleased to be on her second costume outing with Craig Allen Mummey, having previously designed costumes for his production of Lettice and Lovage. Last year Beth was honored with two WATCH nominations for costume design for Going to St. Ives and Cinderella Waltz. Her costume designs have also been seen on the CP stage in Moon Over Buffalo, Hauptmann, She Loves Me!, The Philadelphia Story, The Lion in Winter, The Diviners, and just this past January in Coyote on a Fence. Most recently, Beth stage managed Superior Donuts, and directed 1776 for Colonial Players last year. Other work behind the scenes at CP includes producer, set designer, play consultant, and tech crew. An award-winning Director (Hauptmann) and award-nominated actor (Two Rooms), Beth is the current Production Director on the CP Board of Directors, produces the News and Cues newsletter, and serves CP as a Costume Consultant/Wardrobe Curator, Bylaws Committee Member, and WATCH Judge.