Female factory workers who were painting watch dials might not come to mind as dynamic theater characters, but their efforts have improved conditions for today’s workers.   

Richmond Civic Theatre is presenting the PG-13 rated “These Shining Lives” starting Thursday, March 28. 

Kathy Clopper directs the play based on the real-life experiences of women who worked in a factory and painted glow-in-the dark dials on watches and instrument panels for military equipment. 

They unknowingly suffered radium poisoning through their direct contact with the radioactive substance when some executives and scientists were aware of the dangers and protected themselves. 

Theater staff say the 90-minute drama chronicles the strength and determination of women considered expendable in the 1920s and ’30s.

Although Catherine and her friends are dying, theirs is considered a story of survival because they refuse to allow the company that stole their health to kill their spirits or endanger future generations.

RCT has recruited six special guest celebrity performers for a cameo role. One represents strong women from the community in each show. 

Their expected performance dates are: Millie Martin Emery, Western Wayne News reporter and editor (March 28); Bonnie Miller (March 29), Cindy Perez (March 30), Tracie Robinson (April 5), Monica Koechlein (April 6) and Dr. Erica Kretchman (April 7). 

Production team and crew: Kathy Clopper, Simon Clopper, Sandi Cox, Ruthanne Munger, Michelle Fecher, Jan and Paul Jordan, Tammy Bertsch, Michael White, Rick Funk, Aaron Clarke, Phil Baisley, Amber Daggy, Emily Creviston-Smith, Savannah Smith, Terri Mitchel, Susan Arnett, Donald Mellen, Teresa Kaye Whittaker, Alexa Turner, Sarah Sexton, Macey Manlove, Jackson Thompson, Penny Smoker, Shane R. Eddington, Ron Blanford

Cast: Sarah Sexton, Macey “Shay” Manlove, Michelle King, Alexa Turner, Jackson Thompson, Shane R. Edington, John B. Munger, Donald Mellen, Phil Baisley, Margie Stoller, Teresa Kaye Whittaker, Timothy J. Emery, Ada Smoker, Angi Wilson, Courtney Duke, Penny Smoker, Trina Wood, Penny Smoker, Katara Harper, Aaron Martin, Dustin Summan, Mika Parks, Aja Smith, Derek Summan, Rick Funk

If you go

  • What: “These Shining Lives”
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28-Saturday, March 30; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday April 5-6 and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 7. 
  • Post-performance talks: March 30 and April 7. 
  • Where: Richmond Civic Theatre, 1003 E. Main St., Richmond
  • Cost: Advance: Adults, $20; students/seniors 65+, $17. Day of show, $2 and $1 more, respectively. Group rates available. 
  • Info: 765-962-1816 or gorct.org 
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A version of this article appeared in the March 27 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.