These Shining Lives illuminates the ill-fated women of the Radium Dial Company

The women of Radium Dial Company, circa 1922, are featured in the MainStage Season of Science and Mystery’s “These Shining Lives,” opening at the Lyceum Theatre on the ASU Tempe campus Feb. 26.

Photo by Tim Trumble

The ASU Herberger Institute School of Theatre and Film unveils These Shining Lives this month as the next installment of its MainStage Season of Science and Mystery.

These Shining Lives weaves fiction and fact as it recounts the lives of four young women in 1920s Chicago, each of whom contracts radium poisoning while working at Radium Dial Company.

The girls earned about eight cents per dial to hand paint a compound of radium and phosphorous onto watch faces. Although company scientists and administrators were aware of the radium hazards, they encouraged the girls to tip the camelhair paintbrushes between their lips to keep a firm point on the brushes.

In the opening scenes, the young women are giddy with the stirrings of early feminism – able to earn their own paychecks and explore roles other than wife and mother. The play presents poignant scenes of the women bonding over their dials, and later, after they become ill, highlights their friendship and support as they band together to fight the company’s negligence. Their case ultimately won its argument before the U.S. Supreme Court and captured national headlines, which dubbed them “the radium girls.”

“The play is certainly about this terrible tragedy, but it is ultimately about the courage and camaraderie of these young women,” says William Partlan, associate professor of directing in the School of Theatre and Film. “The triumph of their spirits and the friendship and love they showed each other is the real message of this play.”

These Shining Lives was written by Melanie Marnich and has been staged at noted professional theatres across the country.

Lyceum Theatre, 901. S. Forest Mall, ASU Tempe campus

Feb. 26–27, March 4–6 and March 10–12, 7:30 p.m.; March 7, 2 p.m.

$7–$22; Receive half-price tickets on the First Friday of any MainStage Season production. ASU faculty and staff receive special rates.

Public Contact
Herberger Institute box office, 480.965.6447; School of Theatre and Film, 480.965.5337;

The School of Theatre and Film in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University provides a comprehensive range of courses in performance and directing; design and production; new work development; theatre and performance studies; film; and theatre for youth. Its Theatre for Youth program is nationally ranked in the top three and the dramatic writing/playwriting program is ranked 15th among public institutions by U.S.News & World Report. To learn more about the School of Theatre and Film, visit

Media Contact:
Laurie A. Trotta Valenti
ASU Herberger Institute 
School of Theatre and Film