Theatre UNI presents Radium Girls

ERIN MCRAE, Staff Writer

TheatreUNI will perform “Radium Girls” by D.W. Gregory on March 1-4 at 7:30 p.m. and March 5 at 2 p.m. in the Strayer-Wood Theatre on the University of Northern Iowa campus. “Radium Girls” is the final show for TheatreUNI’s 2022-2023 season. The show is directed by Katherine Hahn, an assistant professor of acting at UNI. 

“Radium Girls” follows a young woman named Grace Fryer as she fights for justice against the U.S. Radium Corporation in the face of corporate negligence. As a dial painter in the early 20th century, Fryer was one of many young women who suffered from radium poisoning after working in a factory with little to zero safety regulations. 

“Radium Girls” focuses on many important themes, specifically scientific justice. In her program note to the audience, Director Hahn said, “Many of my collaborators on this project are also educators. The arts educators have created a vibrant world that amplifies the stories and their significance. The science educators have been instrumental in connecting the themes of the play to advancements in chemistry, physics and environmental science.”

Hahn also reiterated the importance of timing in the performance of this particular show in her note to the audience, “We chose a play about terrifying historical events from 100 years ago that reverberate through the ages. ‘Radium Girls’ shows us what can happen when women fight back against those in power who exploit them, gaslight them and attempt to silence their voices,” Hahn said.

In addition to the show, audience members are encouraged to visit the lobby before and after to view the “Know Better, Do Better” display which features women in science who challenged scientific practices in order to help others. There will also be a panel discussion held on Feb. 27, featuring local experts on the themes from the show. This will be held in Room 108 of the Communication Arts Center. 

Eric Lange is the head of the theatre department at UNI. For Lange, it was important to find a show that worked for all students. “We were searching for a play that provided lots of opportunity for actors as well as design students, and it was important to us to select a title which was written by a female playwright. This play has a strong message that it delivers,” Lange said. 

Theatre students have been hard at work over the last couple of months preparing for audiences. The show stars UNI students Julie Matta and Catherine Henry. “Rehearsals began at the beginning of the semester. Typically shows rehearse about 20 hours each week,” Lange said. 

Although this show is set nearly 100 years ago, for Lange, “Radium Girls” is still relevant today. “There are still so many examples of things in the world where doing what is right to help humans takes a back seat to choosing a course of action for profit motive,” Lange said.  

Tickets to “Radium Girls” are available at or at UNITix box office locations.