Boonville High School debuts fall drama 'Radium Girls'

Courtesy of Boonville High School Thespian Troupe #950

Madelyn Figueroa, junior Whitney Wagler, playing Kathryn Schaub and freshman Kate Richardson as Irene Rudolph aka the "Radium Girls" during the Indiana Thespian Regional Conferences.

Boonville High School took a darker turn for their fall play this year with the historical drama "Radium Girls."

BHS Thespian Troupe #950 performed the show all weekend long, which is based on true events surrounding female factory workers who became sick and eventually died from radiation poisoning and the fight one woman in particular had in court against her employer in the late 1920s.

BHS senior Madelyn Figueroa played that fierce female, who was known as Grace Fryer in real life, while senior Devin Galloway plays, Arthur Roeder, the president of the Radium Corporation.

"She's trying to get compensation for everything she struggled through, everything her friends have struggled through," Figueroa said. "She lives the longest out of her friend group and has to watch all the rest of them die as she's trying to get justice for herself and for her friends.

The show spans several years, starting with a young Grace just starting out in the factory.

"It starts with her at age 15, when she quit school to go to work in the factory because her family needed the money," Figueroa said. "And it goes up all the way until she died, which was around 32."

In order to prep for their roles, the cast did

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ample research on the real people their characters are based upon.

"Especially because it's a true story," Galloway said. "Doing the research helps a lot with our characters and we kind of figure out what motivation they have for certain actions they do."

For Figueroa, the discovery was sombering.

"I saw a picture of her and her grave and a picture of her mother's grave and that was crazy to see like, we're not just portraying characters, we're portraying real people," she said. "We're telling their story to give them justice."

While Galloway's character ends up going through some major growth throughout the show.

"He is very headstrong about the work he does and he really doesn't pay any attention to the girls who paint the dials. When he talks to them, he doesn't even look at them. It's very much like a business oriented relationship," he said. "But, throughout the story, he's starting to realize as all of these things about radiation come to light, that something is wrong and something has to be done about it."

Thankfully, they had BHS teacher and director, Camille Woolston to help guide them.

"These are real people and we have to try to emulate how they felt in that situation and what they might have done though the amazing script and the amazing direction our director has given us," Galloway said. "She has helped put this piece together really well and I think because we have such great material and a really good director, that helps with portraying the story in a very fair and respectful way."

At times, the process has been emotionally taxing, but worth it in the end.

"I remember we were running the last scene for the first time and I had tears in my eyes," Galloway said. "It shows a very powerful message to the audience and even the cast and crew who have been working on this for the past three months."

Though, Figueroa said those heavy emotions incited by the show are the whole point.

"We're not just doing it for entertainment," she said. "We're showing people what actually happened and giving the girls who worked in the factories their voices."

Marisa Patwa is a graduate of the University of Evansville with a degree in journalism and minor in political science.

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