“These Shining Lives” cast strikes emotion with their performances


Photos contributed by Sarah Goff

By Kristi Lucchetta, staff writer

As the audience filled with tears, the lights went up and the “These Shining Lives” production came to a close. The cast illustrated the joy and tragedy that surrounded four women and their lives during the 1920s.

The play opened with the main character and history-changing Catherine Donohue, played by Carly Stewart, who began the production by looking over the audience and talking to the crowd on the dim-lit stage.

“It’s not a fairytale, but it beings like one like one. It’s not a tragedy, but it ends like one,” Catherine said.
The production was written by Melanie Marnich and based on the true story of four women enthusiastic about joining the workforce during the 1920s. The company they worked for was Radium Dial, a watch factory in Ottawa, Illinois.

“All the girls on the block applied for it, I guess I just got lucky,” Stewart’s character Catherine said as the irony rang through the crowd.
The four women were played by Varinique Davis, Whitney Robinson, Hailey Gilbert and Stewart. On the stage they sat at their workstation and used the chemical radium, as they were instructed by the factory manager Mr. Reed, played by Kyle Beckwith.

“Pearl was tough to get into,” said EWU senior Haliey Gilbert. “I think that it would be easy for an actor to lock her into the archetype of a ditz or as a dumb blonde type. I really did not want to do that. I wanted her to be grounded and more relatable than that.”
Robinson’s comical character and performance represented more of a rebellious ideal for women in the 1920s. Her performance earned many laughs from the audience with her loud personality and controversial behavior, such as drinking whiskey in public.

“Charlotte is one of the most challenging characters I have faced,” said EWU junior Whitney Robinson. “She has a very direct way of speaking and the rhythm of her speech is completely different from mine. I found her to be intimidating.”
The women were continuously seen throughout the production sticking the paintbrushes dipped in radium paint in their mouths to paint the hour markings on the watch dials. Ingesting the toxic chemical caused them to shine and glow soon after their work day ceased.

The stage was set up with four different scenes; the bedroom, the kitchen, the workplace and an office setting that was creatively used for a courtroom as well.
Stewart and Kellen Morgan portrayed their characters’ chemistry, romance and humor to establish the connection between the spouses. This allowed them to demonstrate the tragedy as they are ripped apart by the terminal effects of the radium.

“We all have a voice and as long as we have friendship, we can achieve greater things than when we are alone,” said Robinson. “We are given a limited amount of time, so we need to make the best of it and be thankful for what we have.”
The cast sang in upbeat tones and smiles, which slowly dwindled down as the women suffered more and more.

The most considerable prop on the stage that stood as a metaphor was a big clock in the center of the stage placed in the background. As time went by the numbers on the clock disappeared making it clear to the audience that time was being lost without realization of their lives being lost as well.

“This message is important to be heard by EWU students because of the theme of time,” said Gilbert. “As college students, we never have enough time to really do what we want to do because school is looming over our heads. Our responsibility is to our classes and homework in order to graduate. The reality is that our college experience will be gone before we know it.”