These Shining Lives

by Stephen Ostertag

On stage at Kent State University Stark, Melanie Marnich tells the story of four women working as watch painters in These Shining Lives. Set in the 1920s and 30s, These Shining Lives follows Catherine Donohue, and her friends Charlotte, Pearl, and Frances, as Catherine reflects on a journey of self discovery and disillusionment in an era when women had few opportunities.

Marnich’s play is based on the true story chronicled in Ross Mullner‘s Deadly Glow. In the play the ladies work for the Radium Dial Company painting watch faces with luminescent radium. The women find purpose, self reliance, confidence, and camaraderie through their employment but soon discover it comes with a cost as the effects of radium come to light. Literally.

The memory play is directed by theatre department head, Brian Newberg. Newberg said he’s “come to admire Marnich’s work,” especially after last year’s production of Marnich’s play Blur. “Both plays are written in a fluid, imaginative style, that I am drawn to,” said Newberg, adding, “I also appreciate her concern about important themes, such as those explored in this play.” Newberg points out, ‘Her concerns for the women’s voices, their search for justice, and the bonding of sisterhood are important criteria. I also love how she can lift reality poetically into magical realism.”

“This story means a lot to me, because it tells the story of what these women actually had to go through,” says actress Breanna Morton, “It’s powerful to be playing a woman who helped change the way things were, to make things better.” KSU student Breanna Morton plays Frances, the moral yet witty member of the ill fated group. “My favorite thing about her, is that she really has fun, she may be the uptight character, but she isn’t afraid to let loose, speak her mind, or show how deeply she cares for her friends.”

So, right about now you may be asking yourself ‘why would I want to see a show about innocent women being poisoned?’ “It’s a really fascinating show,” Morton says, “it’s important to our history to talk about these kinds of stories instead of letting them fade away.” Director Newberg adds, “I hope that audiences are stirred by the plight of these people, and relate this to current struggles for justice in our current world. Drama can do many things, and through empathy it can bring us to care about each other and improve our world.”

These Shining Lives tells a story of love, ambition, revelation, heart ache, and loss. If you can relate to any of these themes, then there is something in this show for you. These Shining Lives opens April 22nd on the Kent Stark stage, and runs through May 1st.  Friday and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2:30pm, Sunday May 1st ASL interpreted. Tickets $10 for Adults, $7 for Seniors and non-KSU students, Free to KSU students with current student ID. For tickets, stop by the box office or call 330-244-3348, Monday-Friday 1-5pm. For more information, please visit: https://www.kent.edu/stark/these-shining-lives