Play recalls struggles of radium painters

From left to right, Alecia Coffin of Milford, Amanda Brenner of Shelton, Shannon Riccio of Milford, Geoffrey Gilbert of Stratford, and Katie DePonte of New Haven. Photo by Danielle Boyke

Eastbound Theatre, a division of Milford Arts Council, will perform its second show of its 25th season, the first fully-staged Connecticut production of the These Shining Lives, by Melanie Marnich, directed by Rich Mancini.

These Shining Lives chronicles the strength and determination of women considered expendable in their day, exploring their true story and its continued resonance. The fates of Catherine, Frances, Charlotte and Pearl, women who painted the faces of watches with radium in the early twentieth century, are tragic. The company that hires the women tells them that there is no evidence that radium is harmful, however the women ultimately develop radium poisoning.

“This is a story of survival in its most transcendent sense, as the women refuse to allow the company that stole their health to kill their spirits – or endanger the lives of those who come after them,” according to a write-up about the play.

Director Richard Mancini of Stratford describes this play as “a powerful, poetic, and moving piece of theatre about an American tragedy… but one that elevates the strong and spirited women that inhabit its world far beyond the status of ‘victims.’ Its compelling story – along with the humor, lyricism and compassion with which it is told – “grabs you right away and doesn’t let go,” Mancini said.

Known for her award winning television and stage work, Melanie Marnich is a resident playwright at New Dramatists in New York City. She has worked on HBO’s Big Love, adapted Katie Couric’s book The New Kid, which appeared at the Kennedy Center, and had her many plays produced or developed at prestigious venues including the New York’s Public Theater, London’s Royal Court Theater, and The Actor’s Studio.

The cast of These Shining Lives features Amanda Brenner of Shelton, Alecia Coffin of Milford, Patrick Cornelio of Milford, Katie DePonte of New Haven, Geoffrey Gilbert of Stratford, and Shannon Riccio of Milford.

Performances will be held Fridays through Sundays from Feb. 1 through Feb. 17. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. with cabaret seating. Bring your own refreshments. Concessions are available in the Speakeasy Lounge as well.

Sunday performances are at 2 p.m. with theater row seating. Concessions will be available.

Milford Arts Council and the Milford Public Library joined forces on Jan. 8 for a special book club discussion of the book Radium Girls, which inspired the play. All book club participants will participate in a “talk-back session” on Feb 1 and 3 after the performance. Anyone who sees the show on these days is welcome to participate in the talk-back sessions.

For more information go to milfordarts.org or call 203-878-6647.

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