Real-life story of 'Radium Girls' stokes Wa-Hi cast, crew

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Elena Janis, left, Daisy Schoen and Lauren Llewellyn rehearse a scene from "Radium Girls" at the Walla Walla High School auditorium.

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A hallucinating Fryer is confronted by the ghosts of dead co-workers.

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Fryer tells her mother that she's going to stand on her own and seek damages from the company that poisoned her and others.

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Stodola, in his role of U.S. Radium's CEO, tries to convince Schoen, left, and her mother, played by Emylee Gobel, to accept a settlement rather than go to trial.

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Isaiah Stodola, in his role as Edward Markley, the callous CEO of U.S. Radium, plays out a scene with Mary Beth Jones, who portrays Katherine Wiley, a Radium Girls' advocate.

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A hallucinating, hospitalized Grace Fryer, played by Daisy Schoen, is confronted by the ghosts of her dead fellow co-workers, portrayed by Elana Janis, left, Lauren Llewellyn and Kyli Humphreys.

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Janis, center, has a moment with Schoen while cast member Llewellyn watches. The three actresses will be lead players for "Radium Girls," which debuts Nov. 10 at Walla Walla High School.

WALLA WALLA -- Poisoned, lied to, bullied and browbeaten.

Welcome to the world of the Radium Girls.

The tale of how a group of young women prevailed against a company that caused many of them to die young takes the stage Nov. 10 at Walla Walla High School.

"Radium Girls" is centered on Grace Fryer (Daisy Schoen) who is one of hundreds of female workers painting watch dials in 1917 at the U.S. Radium Co. plant in New Jersey.

Grace, along with her friends Kathyrn (Elena Janis) and Irene (Lauren Llewellyn) are bright young women doing a tedious job. They are also unaware that the glow-in-the-dark paint they work with daily is poisoning them, a fact company officials know but don't tell them.

As friends and co-workers sicken and die, Grace and a small group of workers seek justice in the courts. Grace prevails, but not before she has to battle both her own ills and intense pressure to settle out of court.

That theme of ordinary young people fighting against wrong lit up the young cast members, said director Brian Senter.

"They keyed into the injustice," he said. "It just flips a switch in them, and so jumping into a play like this was like second nature to them. We're stoked. We're very, very stoked about this."

The Radium Girls really existed

The Radium Girls were female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with glow-in-the-dark paint at the United States Radium factory in Orange, N.J., around 1917.

The women, who had been told the paint was harmless, ingested deadly amounts of radium by licking their paintbrushes to sharpen them; some also painted their fingernails and teeth with the glowing substance.

Plant worker Grace Fryer decided to sue and several other factory workers, dubbed the "Radium Girls," joined the lawsuit. The litigation and media sensation surrounding the case established legal precedents and triggered the enactment of regulations governing labor safety standards, including a baseline of "provable suffering."

Playwright D. W. Gregory, told the story of Grace Fryer in her play "Radium Girls," which premiered in 2000 at the Playwrights Theatre in Madison, N.J.

-- Source: Wikipedia

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