The University of South Carolina’s Department of Theatre and Dance will give audiences an intimate view into the lives of the “radium girls” of the 1920’s in their new production of “These Shining Lives.”
The play was written by Melanie Marnich and will be performed at Longstreet Theater from Feb. 25 through March 4. It follows the story of four female watch factory workers poisoned by radium and its effects on their personal lives and their fight for justice.
The production is directed by Atlanta-based artist Ibi Owolabi.
“You’re getting a real set of fresh eyes,” fourth-year visual communications student and actor Jesse Breazeale said about Owolabi. "It's such a great story to be told, especially because there are so many women working on it and they're bringing in their perspective."
The production team placed importance on the theme of female empowerment in "These Shining Lives." Lisa Gavaletz, the production's instructor of stage management, said the show is the story of women who refused to let the world’s bosses intimidate them. Gavaletz said that in the show the workers stand up for themselves, as well as their health, and try to get laws changed so that companies cannot sacrifice employees for the sake of money.
“I think it's always amazing to have stories that women are empowered; women's voices speak up and are listened to,” Gavaletz said.
The cast and crew immediately began working on the show at the start of the semester in January. Gavaletz is in charge of the technical elements of the show and portraying the show’s themes in a visual way. According to Gavaletz, there will be some design elements of watches in the production. The sound design will feature ticking noises, and some projections will be time or wristwatch-related.
The cast of the show features six student actors of various majors, one being Emily Paton, a third-year history student and exchange student.
“I hope that by the end of the play, they feel like we are celebrating the women and what they achieved, despite the fact that there were such tragic circumstances," Paton said.
When asked about the cast’s vision for USC’s rendition of the show, Breazeale said they’re going to "play it 100% truthfully."
“[Marnich] writes so much life into these women that, although we know how it ends, we celebrate what they do throughout the whole first half of this play; we really see them at their brightest,” Breazeale said.
While the production will be performed in front of a live audience, both actors and audience members must wear masks and socially distanced seating will be enforced. According to Paton, the show is timely given current events.
Paton said that because of COVID-19, it makes it even more special to be lucky enough to be able to put on an actual performance during this time, especially because the show relates to medical issues and things that are political as well.
“It's a very special kind of relationship between an audience member and an actor, which I'm very excited to have again by being on stage," Paton said.