Building back brighter

Fall play “Radium Girls” marks new era for Drama Department

Building back brighter

Rehearsals are underway at Jones for the fall play “Radium Girls,” the story of young women in the 1920s fighting for accountability after their poisoning working at a radium factory. 

Drama teacher Brennan Roach says he chose this as the fall production because of its particular relevance to students today.

“Radium Girls is about fighting to have your voice heard against unthinkable odds,” said Roach. “I find that most young people have so much to say, but because of the way the world that we live in right now is, the avenues in which to do that have become very thin.”

This idea was reiterated by some of the students involved in the production, who have been able to see themselves reflected in the characters.

“The play asks important questions about whose stories and whose truths are important, and whose voices deserve to be heard,” said Hannah Gill ‘23, who plays the lead role of Grace Fryer. “Especially as high school students, that’s often drowned out by who we’re expected to be and what’s expected of us. This play […] is about people who feel powerless, but keep fighting anyway.”

Students also commented that the historical setting doesn’t stop the show from feeling very current.

“I see a lot in this story about a young woman living in a society created by and for old men,” said Sharon Dousias ‘26, a student director. “It does a good job of capturing the feelings and emotions of not being able to live to the fullest extent because of the social and cultural restraints that are put around you.”

Though the play gets staged in schools frequently, the production team hopes that Jones students will use their perspectives to bring a new voice to the show.

“I think Jones is going to bring a lot of fiery passion,” said Dousias. “We are very passionate about theater, and we have a really great community.”

Roach plans to promote collaboration within the drama community in his first full year as department head. He joined the Jones community midway through last year after controversy within the department.

“I want to bring the ‘we’ back into this environment rather than a ‘me’, which seemed to be at the forefront of things before,” said Roach. “Whether people want it or not, a figurehead is a figurehead. I want to bring things back to a much more ensemble based approach.”

Roach has made an effort to open up the rehearsal process, giving students the opportunity to voice their opinions and make decisions about the direction of the show.

“It feels like a playground,” said Gill. “Sometimes a really fun, funny playground, and also sometimes a very serious, healing and releasing playground, which is awesome.”

The introduction of student directors alongside adult supervisors – a first for the Jones Drama Department – is another marker of collaboration within the production.

“Where I’ve worked in the past, they’ve always had student directors, which is something I always valued,” said Roach. “It’s a unique and interesting role because it’s an intermediary between the adult production staff and the student ensemble. It’s also important to have voices that can sense ‘Is this story reaching me, as a teenager?’”

As a student director, Dousias looks forward to increased creative control over technical production elements.

“I’m very excited to get to the lighting and sound, it’s going to be very artistic,” said Dousias. “That’s the direction we’re going with this, a very artistic and stylized feel, trying to keep it open [to interpretation].”

For many, “Radium Girls” marks the beginning of a new era where the Drama Department is an inviting, accepting place at the center of the Jones community.

“This theater is in the heart of this massive building,” said Roach. “We’re right here off the lobby, it has so much potential to be the center of [the school] and ripple out. Let’s do the very best we can in our space, and maybe that’ll keep things moving along and help us take big steps into the future.”

Those involved in the production encourage all members of the Jones community to come and see “Radium Girls”, playing in the Robin Bennett Theater from Nov. 10-12.

“My hope is that everyone involved in the production and everyone in the audience leaves this experience feeling really empowered,” said Gill. “[I hope they’re] feeling like no matter who they are, their voice is important and their story is important.”