Radium Girls: As A Crew Member


Nicole Henchey, Special Guest Writer

The Holyoke High Theater Company put on its eighth production, titled Radium Girls, in March of 2022.  The play is based on a true event of the 1920s.  U.S. Radium Corporation, led by a greedy and inconsiderate company president, was a dial painting company.  Girls would work there during World War I just to make a steady-enough income to live on.  The dark secret of the company was within the paint the girls would use to paint dials.  The bright glow of the watches and dials produced by the company was caused by an infusion of radium in the paint.  Radium is one of the most dangerous and deadly substances in the world.  Girls would lick their paint brushes clean of paint, therefore ingesting radium.  Due to this, they were on their way to a long and painful battle with their health and the law, eventually leading to their demise.  This was both unnecessary and brutal and all due to the ignorance of the company president.  The story is told through showcasing the point of view and experience of the main character, Grace, who was one of the girls that worked in the dials and was infected by the radium within the paint she used there.


This production required a lot of work from a lot of students, and the direction of Theater Company leader Beaven Brunelle.  In order to put on such a semi-professional production, a talented team of students were recruited.  A group of outstanding actors, completely composed of students was casted.  They spent hours upon days memorizing intricate lines and monologues, learning specific stage blocking, and piecing together everything that they had studied and rehearsed to form an entire play.  A team of backstage crew members were chosen to take on such a high-focus task.  They spent many hours learning where each individual prop is located backstage and onstage.  They used much of their brain power, memorizing which props are needed for each scene, and making sure all of the actors are ready for their scenes.  To the focal point of this editorial, being that this is about my experience in the crew of Radium Girls,  a question remains, what was my duty as a crew member?  I was a part of a group of four students who would work from the light and sound booth.  One student controlling the light board, one student operating microphones, one student playing music and sound cues, and one student as a stage manager.  I was the one in control of music and sound cues.


Being a sound designer was not new to me, since that was what I did for the previous Theater Company Production from November 2021, titled “Low Budget High School Play.”  Even with prior experience, this was still a difficult task for me.  In Radium Girls, I was given many, many more cues in which I needed to deliver at the right times in the show.  I had a list of what sounds to play at what ceues.  I always had to pay attention to which sounds I had to have prepared in each scene.  My most important skill was to listen so carefully to the stage manager.  The stage manager would call out each ceue that the sound and light operators would have to play.  It was difficult having to constantly be ready for the next ceue, knowing that it could be called soon.  However, I managed to accomplish my given task.  I was able to do this with the support of many days of long rehearsals, technology, and many rounds of practice.

My experience in the Radium Girls production was tough at times, but overall, it was very enjoyable and worth the hard work.  I joined the production in February, with the promise of being sound designer.  When I attended my first rehearsal for the production, I was amazed by how well the cast performed.  Their work ethic was very good, and they acted impressively well.  I was also astonished by how the stage crew transitioned props between scenes so efficiently.  I was immediately proud to have been brought into this team of incredible workers.  Throughout the months of rehearsals, leading up to the finalized show days, I have had time to interact with everyone in the production.  The sense of community amongst the students was very much prominent.  We were not just classmates, we were friends.  I would look forward to working with my fellow students every day throughout the production.  What especially stood out to me during the three nights in which the show was performed was the tremendous amounts of support everyone had for one another.  Being in this team felt like family.  I was very happy to be a part of such a strong theater community.  Our hard work had paid off to make such a great show.  This was how my experience was as a crew member in the Holyoke High Theater Company’s production of Radium Girls.