These Shining Lives
by Melanie Marnich
directed by Caitlin Lowans
June 6 - 22, 2013
In the 1920s, The Radium Dial Corporation employed some 4,000 girls and produced watches with brightly lit dials. These were jobs for girls that had never worked before. They didn't just make money; they made friends. But the radioactive paint they were using made them terribly ill. These Shining Lives tells the story of four women who rejoiced in their new-found camaraderie and found the courage for each other to stand up to the employers that endangered their lives.
Lucy Ciccio Albanese, a Luminous Engineer
Stoneham Theatre regular, Louise Litchfield, has a very close connection to These Shining Lives. Mrs. Litchfield's second cousin, Lucy Ciccio Albanese, was a "radium girl" in the 1930s.
Lucy went to the Massachusetts College of Art in the 1930s to become a painter. Her first job out of school was painting the faces of watches with radium so they would have brightly lit dials. "She said when she came home from work and went into a dark room, her clothes and shoes would glow," Litchfield shared. Although Litchfield doesn't know exactly where her cousin worked, she believes Lucy worked close to her Roslindale home and that US Radium contracted the girls out. In any event, an inscription under an old photograph shows that Lucy and the other girls deemed themselves luminous engineers.
Lucy didn't spend her entire career painting watch dials. A few years later she moved on to designing greeting cards. But in the 1970s, the Argone National Laboratory, part of the University of Chicago, contacted Lucy to be part of a study. Every year for 12 years, Lucy would be flown to Chicago to go through comprehensive testing. Bone scans, blood scans, and body and breath measurements were just some of the tests Lucy had to endure. If Lucy lost a tooth, she would have to mail her tooth to Argone for testing.
Eventually Lucy was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. Lucy's blood transfusions became so frequent that she would have as many as three transfusions a week. No one in Lucy's family had a history of aplastic anemia; however, part of Argone National Laboratory's findings was that radium poisoning is one of the causes.
Lucy died of bone cancer at the age of 88. Although she was more fortunate than others, her story and the story of other radium girls will live on as long as we continue to tell it. These Shining Lives is playing now through June 22, 2013.
Pay What You Can Night:
Everyone should have the opportunity to experience live theatre. In an effort to bring the excitement of live theatre to more of our community, Stoneham Theatre is proud to offer "Pay What You Can." One hour prior to the first Thursday performance of each Mainstage production, tickets to that performance will be sold on a "Pay What You Can" basis. Sponsored by Melrose Cooperative Bank. This offer may not be combined with any other offers. Subject to availablility.
Thursday, June 6th at 7:30 pm
Photo: McCaela Donovan.* Photo Credit: David Costa.
*Deonotes member of Actors' Equity Association.
Thanks to our Set Sponsor: