The student news site of Corona del Mar High School


The student news site of Corona del Mar High School


The student news site of Corona del Mar High School


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CdM’s Radium Girls: The Tragedy that Transcends Time

CdM performs Radium Girls. Photo courtesy of Naiya Sapru’s iPhone

Through distinct characters and spirited rhetoric, DW Gregory illustrates the tragic story of the United States Radium Corporation’s factory girls in his play Radium Girls. America’s seemingly innocent fascination with the curiously glowing radium enticed businessmen with promises of riches, unknowing of the deathly consequences on its factory girls. Gregory’s piece focuses on protagonist Grace Fryer who, roused by the recent death of her coworker, fights for justice in court against her employer Arthur Roeder. 

From November 2 to November 5, CdM delivered their own spin on Radium Girls, pairing the lingering remnants of Halloween’s eerie atmosphere with Gregory’s chilling narrative. To mimic the glowing nature of radium, upon entry, viewers experienced childlike joy as their white shirts, white socks, and white playbooks glowed. It was as if bioluminescent fish were swimming among the CdM Theater’s ink-colored chairs. The rich sound of an orchestra of string instruments radiated softly throughout the theater to songs like Atlantis by Seafret and Lovely by Billie Eilish as the audience seated themselves, setting the stage (no pun intended) for the atmosphere of the show. The music selection mirrored the mysteriousness of the radium girls and bleakness of the postwar setting.

Brooklyn Hamilton’s portrayal of Grace Fryer had the audience enthralled, most notably with her uncannily realistic enactment of the multitude of emotions her character experienced over the course of the play: excitement, fear, depression, grief, hysteria. The time appropriateness of several cast members’ speech, namely Cameron Firoozi, Jasmine Jenkins, and Aidan Tate, sent viewers back to the 1920s.

Before the curtain closed, CdM’s Theater Department paid homage to the real-life radium girls. The portrait of each factory girl who died from radium poisoning was cast between the four hanging wooden window frames that silently and unassumingly witnessed the entire story from the background.

Grace Fryer’s battle against the use of radium in manufacturing acts as a meaningful commentary, relevant even to the contemporary audience, on American capitalism and gender inequality. It poses an important question about human nature: Do we choose self-interest at the expense of our morals? Gregory seems to answer this question in the affirmative. 

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