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Boston College Theatre Department Presents These Shining Lives: October 18-21, 2012


Chestnut Hill, Mass. (October 2012)  – The Boston College Theatre Department presents the first production of the 2012-2013 season: Melanie Marnich’s These Shining Lives. Directed by Theatre Department faculty member Patricia Riggin, the production will be presented on the mainstage of the University’s Robsham Theater Arts Center from October 18 through 21.

Set in the 1920s and 1930s and based on historical events, These Shining Lives tells a compelling story about women and work.  Catherine Donohue, a young, determined wife and mother takes a job painting the faces on watch dials at the Radium Dial Company in Ottawa, Illinois.  She learns the ropes from three other factory workers and the four become fast friends, unaware that the radium-based paint they use is dangerous to their health.  When the women develop symptoms of radium poisoning, the company doctors reject their concerns and Catherine becomes seriously ill.  Unwilling to submit to employer abuse, she leads the charge in a legal battle that brings a measure of justice for working women and men in the state of Illinois and beyond. 

“The fair treatment of workers has been a powerful force in my life for as long as I can remember,” says Riggin. “I grew up in a three-generation home where unions were revered. I am well aware of how fortunate many of us are due to the protections that American workers generally enjoy. The greed of the owners and disregard for the workers at Radium Dial Company in the early 20th Century are sadly still with us.“

The Radium Dial Company opened its Illinois factory in 1922, after workers in its East Coast factories became ill on a regular basis.  The company denied knowledge of radium's negative effects on its predominantly female workforce and even took out newspaper advertisements boasting of its medicinal effects. 

But the "Radium Girls," as they were known, suffered from the exposure: some lost teeth or limbs to amputation, and others lost their lives. The legal action they took against their employer was front-page news for nearly four years, and many headlines depicted them as unskilled, disgruntled and looking for a payout. Three years after the trials ended, Radium Dial closed its Ottawa factory. In recognition of this landmark case in the history of women, labor, and occupational safety, on Labor Day in 2011 a statue honoring the Radium Girls was unveiled in Ottawa.

Originally commissioned by the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois, the play had its world premiere at Baltimore's Centerstage in 2008. It was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Weissberger Award. Melanie Marnich has been a resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2005.  She has received two McKnight Advancement Grants and two Jerome Fellowships from The Playwrights’ Center, among other awards, and has been commissioned by prominent theaters including the Kennedy Center, La Jolla Playhouse, Arena Stage and the Guthrie Theater.

The cast for These Shining Lives features Phoebe Kuhlman ’13 as Catherine, Kyle Brown ’14 as her husband Tom, Maggie Maguire ’13 as Charlotte, Nicole Trauffer ’13 as Frances, Sam Goober ’15 as Pearl, and Eliott Purcell ’14 as Mr. Reed, the boss at Radium Dial. Mary Vasile ’14, Julianne Quaas ’15, and Matthew Appleby ’15 complete the cast in a number of ensemble roles.

In addition to Riggin, the Boston College production team includes BC Theatre Department faculty members Crystal Tiala as scenic designer and Jackie Dalley as costume designer.  Karen Perlow is the guest-artist lighting designer; Sarah Kelley ’14 serves as stage manager and Cara Harrington ’15 as production dramaturg.

The production opens Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. and runs through a 2  p.m. matinee on Sunday, October 21, 2012 in the Robsham Theater Arts Center. Tickets are $15 and $10 for students, seniors, and BC faculty and staff. All tickets are available online at, through the RTAC Box Office, or by calling 617-552-4002. For more information, please go to

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