A moving interpretation of “These Shining Lives,” a dramatic play by Melanie Marnich based on the true story of the Radium Girls, will be performed this week by Eden Prairie High School (EPHS) drama students.
Shows will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Apr. 27, Friday, Apr. 28, and Saturday, Apr. 29, at the EPHS Performing Arts Center. Tickets are on sale here and are $5 for students and senior citizens, and $7 for adults.
Laurie Nebeker, the play’s director who also teaches English and theater at EPHS, said “These Shining Lives” dramatizes the lives of young women who thought themselves lucky to be working in an Illinois factory in the 1920s. They were skilled workers paid to hand paint clocks and watches — special dials that would glow in the dark thanks to the marvelous invention of radium paint.
These dynamic women began their jobs with excitement. They made lists of “things that glow” and enjoyed having their own money in their pockets. But when the glow of the radium would not leave their bodies, they had to fight against the disease the radium caused and against the powerful company bosses who wanted to ignore the problem.
“I was drawn to this script because it focuses on the women’s lives and on their strengths rather than on the tragedy,” Nebeker said.
“It’s easy to tell this as a story of outrage for the workers who didn’t know they were exchanging their health for their paychecks while the company made money and denied any wrongdoing,” she said. “The playwright, however, has made the story provocative based on empathy rather than pity; the characters are funny, romantic, hopeful, and strong.”
Shreya Saini, a senior playing the lead role of Catharine Donohue, agreed. “Not only does ‘These Shining Lives’ shed light on this heartbreaking occurrence in history, but it also provides a look into these women’s multidimensional stories,” she said.
“These women had their own senses of humor, opinions, and aspirations. These women had families and friends. These women had lives. It can be easy to forget these facts when viewing history, but this show does a beautiful job honoring these women and their importance as individuals.”
Lahari Hosur, a senior in the role of Charlotte, said that ultimately, “It’s a story of fighters. These women changed Illinois law so that workers were treated fairly. And given all of the issues in our world today, I hope people will watch this show and feel inspired to fight back as well.”
About the show
Nebeker said the play has some stylistic elements of a docudrama, including some projections of historical news articles and photos relating to this true story.
The cast features 12 EPHS students and another 12-15 students working on the tech crew. Other cast members are Ryan Sweeney, Moneerah Saoudy, Mary Wolberg, Aidan Gordy, Zak Bhatti, Lily Lawinger, Noah Lins, Averi Leone, Danielle Van Hout, and Soriyah Vickerie.
“Audiences can expect a heartfelt, sincere, and passionate performance from all of us,” said Hosur. “The script is beautifully written and the cast and crew have worked very hard to bring the story to life.”
Saini warned the play is a bit of a tear-jerker. “I think every ticket should have a disclaimer of BYOT: bring your own tissues. It’s definitely a moving story.”
This will be the final official EPHS production for drama club mainstays Saini and Hosur, who each have been in 11 performances. However, their final performance will be at the student-led production Broadway Extravaganza, which will be June 1-2.
Hosur said she has greatly enjoyed working with her fellow cast members.
“I’ve known these people for years and I’m so glad I get to perform in my last play ever with them,” she said. “Everyone is so talented and they bring something unique to their character every day. I’ve learned so much from acting with them and I’ve grown as an actor throughout the rehearsal process.”
Hosur, who plans to continue doing drama for fun when she attends the University of Minnesota next year as an aerospace engineering major, added, “My time in EPHS drama has been so meaningful and the memories I’ve made are so special to me. The friends I’ve made in the department are people that I will be connected with for a long time.”
Saini, who plans to study film at Northwestern University and continue with theater recreationally, said the drama club has deeply and positively impacted her high school experience.
“My time here with the EPHS drama has been surreal, to say the least,” she said. “Through this department, I’ve found my closest friends, my most influential mentors, my biggest crushes, and my worst enemies (kidding). Most of all, I’ve found a family.”
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