A community performance of Cleburne High School’s UIL One Act Play entry, “Radium Girls,” will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Don Smith Performing Arts Center. Admission is $5.
The CHS production features scenes from playwright D.W. Gregory’s theatrical adaptation of a milestone in American history, which led to the establishment of labor safety standards in manufacturing and industry.
Set in the late 1920s, “Radium Girls” tells the story of a group of female factory workers employed by United States Radium Corporation, who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with radium-laced glow-in-the-dark paint. The workers were encouraged to place their paint brushes in their mouths to keep the bristles in a fine point as they completed their tedious tasks to meet the plant’s daily production quotas. In another section of the plant, chemists, also working with radium, used screens, masks and tongs to avoid exposure.
Many of the factory workers began to suffer with anemia, bone fractures and necrosis of the jaw, a condition now known as “radium jaw.” Five workers at U.S. Radium, dubbed the “Radium Girls” by the news media, filed a law suit over their exposure to radiation, despite their employer’s knowledge of the dangers. Their case served as a landmark in establishing new precedents in industry safety standards and health reform, as well as labor-related litigation.
Cleburne’s one act play cast is led by senior Genny Newby, who portrays Grace Fryer, a member of the production line who begins to question conditions at the factory as she sees fellow workers grow weak, become sick and die.
Dylan Weaver, who plays factory owner Arthur Roeder, and Will Roznowski, who takes on two characters in the play, including the corporation’s legal representative, both received All-Star Cast honors in UIL zone competition.