Stallion Theatre Company Brings the Historic Radium Girls to the Stage

Since August, the theatre has been working towards a performance of Radium Girls. See what goes on behind the curtain.


Photo by Gabriella Bello.

Students in Paint Crew work together to create brick walls for the Radium Girls set. Radium Girls is a play based on the real Radium Girls of 1926, who worked in factories painting watch dials with luminous paint, unaware that it consisted of radium, a toxic chemical.

Nolan Crosby, A&E Editor

Radium Girls tells the story of the discovery of the 88th element, Radium. The story follows the girls poisoned by radium in a watch painting factory and the fault the companies played in their illnesses. It goes up on stage this Wednesday, October 12, and the theatre department on campus has been in overdrive to impress audiences coming back from summer break. 

Senior Kristina Sabad is the production’s Assistant Director, the first person brought into the production. She assists the Director, Mrs. Cambria Graff.

“Mrs. G and I meet, read the script, watch the movie, and do our research. We got our heads around the time period, not only for the costumes and the props and everything but how that would affect the characters,” said Sabad.

Then comes casting. “It’s a long process, tough decisions,” said Sabad. 

Julia Tonai will be starring as Grace Freyer, the show’s protagonist. Radium Girls explores Freyer’s interactions as a laborer and her relationship with the Radium Corporations that gave her radium poisoning.

“Everyone who auditioned and got called for that role is extremely talented and amazing… Everyone played the character so differently, but then finding out that my choices were preferable to the direction the director wanted to take was a shock … but it was an exciting experience to know that I got cast.” The callback is when actors test their skills in deciphering the script and embodying that on stage for the direction team to see. 

Tonai is familiar with the process. Audiences may recognize her from her breakout role last year in Nine Girls. Spoiler warning, but she played “this girl that murdered a few of her friends.” Tonai established a specific contrast between that character and Grace, one a killer, the other a victim. 

Prepare yourself. It is based on a true story, and we really try to respect the people this really happened to… we don’t want to be insensitive to what happened to them.

— Kristina Sabad

“[Playing a variety of roles] helped me realize that I haven’t been specifically cast as one type of character, and I’ve been able to have this emotional range.” 

While the cast is busy dissecting their scripts, another group of students works tirelessly to bring it all to life on stage. Technicians in the Theatrical Production CTE track on campus, like Griff Pancheck, have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to the director for any of the multiple design areas. After his pitch, Pancheck was assigned Prop Designer for Radium Girls. 

From Hair & Makeup to Set to Audio Design, each piece of the show that ends up on stage is a choice someone spent seven weeks putting together. Pancheck’s seven weeks have been put to good use venturing up into the theater’s Prop Room, among countless other tasks to bring props to the stage. 

“It’s above the theatre. It’s upstairs and it’s a whole room full of costumes and props and all kinds of stuff, and I get a lot of [the props] from there,” said Pancheck.

When gathering props, aside from the catalog of props, furniture, and costumes, Pancheck may borrow props from friends or buy them online, in thrift stores, or even just at Target. Sometimes, he and a crew of classmates will spend time making the props too. On the hunt for watch trays, he “looked in stores first because I couldn’t find anything online at first. But then I found something online, so I got those. And then for the Watch Dials, we’re just going to 3D-print them because I couldn’t find them anywhere else.” 

Pancheck and the set construction team were able to work alongside Collin MacDonald and his Engineering Class to put the show together. MacDonald used the 3D printing equipment in his classroom to print the watch face props for the production. The watches in the show represent the passing of time as it correlates with the characters’ evolution and the timeline of their illness.

Time itself is used to show how the characters are evolving physically

— Griff Pancheck

The watches are not the only commentary on the theme of time. Other design areas show the influences timeline has on the show’s plot. As the Radium Girls of the ’20s got sick, corporations disregarded the girls and attempted to wait them out.

“time itself is used to show how the characters are evolving physically,” said Pancheck

Pancheck, Tonai, and over two dozen other students are preparing for opening night when everything comes together. Monday and Tuesday are Dress Rehearsals for the show, giving students a chance to see everything in action before audiences fill in. 

“Prepare yourself. It is based on a true story, and we really try to respect the people this really happened to, because Grace was a real person, Mr. Roeder, was a real person. These are their lives that we’re taking and performing, and we don’t want to be insensitive to what happened to them because it’s truth and it’s factual, and I think it’s a really important story to share,” said Sabad. 

To learn more about the Theatre Arts on campus or buy a ticket, visit the F-building sometime and feel the electric energy that materializes into these shows.