Danger! Memorial’s fall play, “Radium Girls,” was radioactive with talent

“Tell us-Miss Fryer-how does it feel, knowing you have so little time left?” This reporter’s insensitive question is only a snippet of the tragic story of “Radium Girls.” The Bulldogs involved in the production did a wonderful job telling the story of Fryer and the rest of the real Radium Girls, almost 100 years after their deaths.

Kelsi Seltenreich, Managing Editor

For many, the best part of theatre is sharing untold stories. On Oct. 7-8, Edmond Memorial High School’s production of “Radium Girls” undoubtedly achieved that goal, as audience members left feeling deep emotions of loss, anger, sadness and even hope.

“Radium Girls” is based on a true story set in the early 1900s, exposing the injustices that the U.S. Radium Plant set on Grace Fryer (Ella Latham), Kathryn Schaub (Mia Lashley), Irene Rudolph (Stella Hardy) and many other women that worked in the dial painting section of the company. The factory’s owner, Arthur Roeder (Rayan Sawan), along with other company executives, not only instructed the dial painters to finely point their brushes by molding the bristles with their mouths, which led to Radium poisoning, but used many unethical methods in an attempt to cover up the poisonings and avoid lawsuits.

Fryer’s dedication to exposing the company in an effort to save the lives of countless others and establish more humane labor laws is something everyone can learn from. Resilience like that is what changes the world, and more inspiring stories like “Radium Girls” should be told.

Fryer’s relationship with Tom Kreider (Carter Haney) added even more depth to the story. Watching both characters deal with her sickness and try to persevere together made the story even more tragic, and it was very impressive for those emotions to be so expertly conveyed by teenagers.

Latham led the company brilliantly, portraying Fryer’s resilience and hurt while becoming increasingly ill throughout the play. In addition to Latham’s stellar execution showing the results of Radium poisoning, Lashley, Hardy, and Joe Kelley (who played the role of Dr. Von Sochocky) were each outstanding at portraying severely ill characters.

On top of having a wonderful cast directed by Patrick Towne, the time period-appropriate costuming, multi-level set, and creative use of lighting to tell the story made the production quality top-notch. The large clock at the top of the set made the passage of time easy to follow, pointing out that the characters were running out of time, and kept the transitions smooth and interesting.

The details of this performance didn’t stop on the stage. The lobby was decked out with green paint-themed decorations and included a huge clock with green lights that made for a perfect photo spot. The decorations made the audience feel excited before even entering the auditorium, courtesy of the Performing Arts Council of Edmond.

This play was extra special for the cast because it was the first “normal” fall play at Memorial since 2019. “Blithe Spirit” in 2020 was heavily affected by COVID-19, which led to a very small cast and mandatory masks for everyone. Then, last year, “12 Angry Jurors” was performed in the cafeteria due to construction in the auditorium. While the Bulldogs made the best out of the circumstances, it was a delight for both the actors and the audience to be back in the auditorium, mask-less, with a cast of 25 people for the 2022 fall play.

“Radium Girls” was a definite success, highlighting the radioactively talented group of Bulldogs in the drama department.

Contact Kelsi Seltenreich at [email protected]