These Shining Lives
The Studio Theatre
Tierra Del Sol
- Lighting Designer: Collin Hall
- Director: Nathaniel Niemi
- Scenic/Props Designer: Joshua E. Gallagher
- Costume Designer: Kristen Taylor
- Composer/Sound Designer: Alexander Sovronsky
- Stage Manager: Madison Youngblood
- Photo Credit: Andrew Tolbert
This is the story of the Radium Girls: a historically real group of women who painted watch dial faces with radium. The companies that employed them exploited them, lying and manipulating them in order to make the most profit. This play details that deception and the lurking doom that follows, until the women can no longer escape their tragic fates.
For the lighting, a slow change over time was crucial. Subtly, we shifted from a full, bright, warm stage to a cold, shadowy space. Increasing the use of dramatic top lighting exaggerated the skeletal features on the women’s faces, mimicking their bodies’ decay. Shifting towards greener tones created a similar sickly feeling that grew over time.
Time was one of the more influential motifs in this play, looming over every bit of action. Physically, we saw this represented in the window, which eventually turned into a clock. In lighting, the timing of the cues matched the actors’ motions and the beats of the underscoring. While some changes were more gradual, in order to show the subtle shift in color and mood, most of the transitions between scenes were sudden. This abruptness pushed us forward forcefully, just like the unrelenting passage of time.
Another notable aspect of the lighting design was the green glowing deck and the women’s glowing hands. This was a result of a collaboration among me, the director, and the scenic designer. The radioactive green light seeped through the cracks in the floor, in the same way that the radium seeped into the bones of the women, poisoning the foundation of their bodies. This visual representation of the permanent, deadly damage done to the women’s bodies was a powerful, shocking moment of realization for our audience, and it acted as the essential turning point in our plot.