After performing lighter shows the past several winters, the Hopkinton High School Drama Ensemble this month will tackle a serious historical drama, “Radium Girls.” The play will run from March 7-9 in the HHS auditorium.
“I wanted to do a drama since I had done comedic pieces in the winter slot for the past few years,” director Valerie von Rosenvinge said. “I had seen a production of the play a couple of years back and thought it would be a good choice, due to its historical accuracy and the potential for character development it would offer the cast. There are also a number of things that are relevant to today, a century later, that I thought would offer a learning experience for the students and audience alike.”
Inspired by a true story and set in the 1920s, “Radium Girls” follows Grace Fryer, one of many young women hired to paint luminous watches, through a court battle against her former employer, U.S. Radium Corporation, and her boss, Arthur Roeder. Fryer, played by freshman Lauren Coccio, and many other workers fell ill from what was later determined to be radium poisoning, and sometimes it was fatal. Senior Matthew Dempsey, who played Jesus in the fall production of “Godspell,” takes on the role of Roeder. The play features 16 more actors in roles of friends, co-workers, lovers, relatives, attorneys, scientists and consumer advocates.
“The rewarding aspect for me is the dedication that these young people come to rehearsal every day to get it right,” von Rosenvinge said. “They are not afraid to try new things or allow me to guide them through the process of discovery. It is a weighty story and they have honored it.
“The challenges are that many of the actors are playing more than one part, so they have to become different characters, developing a unique personality for each one,” von Rosenvinge added. “This requires creating believability through the honing of acting skills not always required in theatrical productions. The subject matter is one that must be treated with respect, for the actors are in many cases bringing to life the actual people who lived this story — in all cases, when that occurs there must be a serious investment in presenting the characters, despite their flaws, as people struggling to make sense of the circumstances they find themselves in, as opposed to painting some as good and others bad.”
Showtimes are March 7 at 4 p.m., and March 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. in the Hopkinton High School auditorium. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors.