Friends Select Student News Media

The Falcon

Friends Select Student News Media

The Falcon

Friends Select Student News Media

The Falcon

Behind the Scenes of Radium Girls

Photo by Cole Semel ’25

It’s 3:30 pm on a typical school day, and as I walk into the theater, my attention is immediately grabbed by the sounds of cast members rehearsing their lines and adjusting sets; they are scattered across the stage and behind the curtains, preparing for Friends Select’s first play of 2024. Radium Girls, set in the early 20th century, is a tragic true story about female factory workers who suffered radium poisoning on sight. “I first read the book about the ‘Radium Girls’ by Kate Moore a few years ago and was deeply moved by their story and fight for justice in the workplace,” explains Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters, the new Drama Department Chair. “I was excited to pitch a few plays to the students on the Play Selection Committee and I was hopeful that DW Gregory’s theatrical interpretation of the historic event would rise to the top for students.”

The story of Radium Girls is not just historical but deeply relevant to everyone, as it shows themes of workers’ rights and corporate responsibility. “At its core, this story is about the fight for women’s rights in the workplace, communities banding together, grief, and friendship,” Stephanie says. “I hope audiences walk away feeling inspired to continuously make change.”

In the basement, the costume crew, led by Noah Hall-King ’24, is hard at work. As a proud member of the costume crew myself, we learned about the story and the significant struggles faced by the female workers in the early 20th century, understanding what they wore during that era, and how their attire reflected their roles and lives. The early meetings were essential for us to begin designing costumes that were accurate to the time period. After learning about the history of Radium Girls, we started to work on the designs. 

Noah’s commitment to his role as the leader of the costume crew for Radium Girls is shown in every single detail of his work, and also in the time and effort he spends on this play. From researching period-appropriate costumes to ensuring each costume fits perfectly, his dedication goes beyond just aesthetics; it’s about bringing history and play to life. When I asked Noah why he wanted to lead the costume crew, his passion was clear. “I like designing clothes and I love working with the theater, but I am not really interested in acting,” he explains. “So I thought, how could I contribute without being on stage?” The answer was to contribute to the theater in a meaningful way behind the scenes. 

Balancing creative vision with practical constraints was a major challenge during preparation. Noah says, “Different ideas clash with practicality,” and he overcomes these challenges by “trying to match what my dream of this show is, with the director’s dream as well.” This process involves a lot of compromises and diplomatic interactions to make the best use of available resources.

When you walk down the stairs behind the Blauvelt, you will see Max Budnick, the Head of Stage Crew, working with the group. Max and his team are the magic that brings the stage to life. His team’s work behind the scenes is crucial, particularly in crafting the set pieces that form the backbone of the Radium Girls play. His most notable contribution is the intricate set design, particularly the large, deconstructed clock that has become a centerpiece of the production. Stephanie, in describing the structure, says, “We are attempting to create a rather ambitious set design component on Radium Girls by adding a 6-foot floating clock to the school’s light grid. Our stage crew has been integral in making my vision for the stage picture come to life and I can’t wait for audiences to see this.” Max describes the thought process behind this creation, saying, “it was challenging to figure out a piece that would convey the passage of time, and convey the heavy burden that ‘time’ can represent without being too literal.” 

“​​My days tend to be longer and a little bit more hectic when working on the play…there’s always something to work on,” explains Max. “Honestly, this is the first play that Stephanie and I have gotten to work on together, with her in the director/producer seat and me as a technical theater director. While all of the rehearsals have still felt long and often somewhat grueling, there is an unexpected synchronicity and energy that we both bring to these rehearsals that I think have been very fun for each of us and also (hopefully) the cast overall.”

As Radium Girls comes to life each afternoon, Stephanie is often the first to arrive and the last to leave. When asked about challenges she faced during the preparations, she says, “I wouldn’t call this a challenge, but something new I’m trying with this production is having live music on stage. I’m thrilled to collaborate with the members of our FSS Jazz Band for original compositions!” This year, the FSS Jazz Band will perform live for the first time in our school’s play. 

Radium Girls concluded last week, and was a huge success, making a significant impact on the theater department. The Jazz Band performed exquisitely, their live music complementing the drama throughout the play. The success of this production was largely due to the dedicated efforts of Noah, Stephanie, and Max, whose hard work was essential. 

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About the Contributor
Janis Ng

Janis Ng is a senior in the journalism class at Friends Select School. She is the leader of the Chinese Culture Club and True Crime Club. Janis enjoys reading murder mysteries and her favorite food is raw onions.

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