The Cherokee Players take on the tragic historical piece, Radium Girls, honoring the true story

We’re nearing the end of the school year and it’s once again time for the CHS Theater Program’s annual Junior/Senior production, a bittersweet moment to honor and send off our talented seniors. This year, students really got to show off their skills, with the historical drama, Radium Girls.

What’s remarkable about this play is how exceptional the students performed given the little time they had to learn and practice their lines, delivery, and actions. In addition, the cast consisted of 14 performers who distributed 29 roles among themselves, with most students having two or more roles.

Also note all professional photos in this article are credited to Daniel Hobson who graciously volunteers his time, turning these life long memories into photographs for our students. These pictures and many more can be found on the Cherokee Players Facebook page.

This play is also a little different than the usual production we see from the Cherokee Players. Radium Girls is a deep and layered play based on true events. The story follows the tragic events concerning the deaths of many women who died while working for Arthur Roeder.

While working for the U.S. Radium Corp. the women painted parts of watches using a paint that contained radium. Unknowing how toxic the substance was to consume, the women obeyed when encouraged to point their brushes with their lips. This resulted in the decay of their teeth, jaws, and overall health.

Radium Girls offers a wry, unflinching look at the peculiarly American obsession with health, wealth, and the commercialization of science.

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So, the theater program’s phenomenal job tackling and perfecting such difficult content is truly awe inspiring.

The women at the factory that suffered the side effects of working with radium are played by: Emma Barnes Shoaoey Pace, and Lily Richard. These girls do an incredible job portraying the lives of these real women.

Emma Barnes, who had the lead role of Grace Fryer, played the woman that challenged the company, taking them to court. While Grace fought legal justice, she also battled with her concerned family members that feared the case would backfire. Specifically, Graces boyfriend, Tom Kreider, played by Turk Blanton, urged her not to pursue the case.

Both Barns and Blanton agree that playing the roles of these victims presented new challenges. However, they were both able to overcome them, paying homage to the real people Radium Girls was inspired by.

One of the main challenges was “reading real” on stage. Which means speaking and motioning like you typically would and not speaking in an “actor voice”

Emma Barnes, Senior

It is important to stick to the facts, and actually portray the characters we played. Since it was a true story, it was important to make sure that we honored the lives of the people that we played on stage.

Turk Blanton, Junior

In addition to the victims, the Cherokee Players also took on the roles of the men that were at fault.

Will DeMartini, Caisen Storm, Nathan Carson, Zack Barrett, and Wyatt Darnell all learned how to play the real men that were involved with the radium girl’s deaths. This, of course, is a heavy concept, but they all handled the task with an open mind, doing a great job performing these difficult roles.

The play depicts how company president, Arthur Roeder, played by Will DeMartini, put his own success first, unknowingly poisoning these women by never reading his own employee handbook.

By including the motivations of Roeder, “Radium Girls,” illustrates intense corporate greed and carelessness. Taking on the role of the villain, DeMartini truly displayed his skill to the audience, making each scene an emotional roller coaster of selfishness and remorse.

Throughout the role, I had to learn how to portray a bad guy thinking he was a good guy. I learned about portraying qualities such as ignorance and narcissism but with that “good guy” twist.

Will DeMartini, Senior

Overall, the cast and crew of “Radium Girls” did an incredible job depicting this tragic and true story, and we cant wait to see what else the drama program has in store for us later this year.

CHS is thankful for Dr. Burn’s leadership and the role she plays in these talented students’ lives; the show could not be done without her. Congratulations to our Cherokee Players for another amazing production!

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