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SCPA's "These Shining Lives"

Review by Erica Budde, Ursuline Academy Cappies Critic Team

The feeling of female empowerment radiated throughout The School for Creative and Performing Arts' theater. "These Shining Lives," by Melanie Marnich, is a play revolving around four women who worked for Radium Dial Company, a watch company located in Ottawa, Illinois. These women experienced great pay for the 1920's but later realized that their work cost them in ways such as bone cancer and jaw infections. The play tells how one courageous woman, Catherine Donohue, fought her case and changed Illinois law for workers' rights. "These Shining Lives" had its debut in the Head Theater at Centerstage in 2008.

This production was rooted in historical accuracy and raw emotion of the defeated women dying of radium poisoning in the '20s. Despite the emotionally difficult plot, the cast kept their energy up to captivate the audience throughout the production. Each character in this ten-person cast had their own unique identity which kept every scene complex.

Jordain Addis, who played Catherine, opened the play with an impactful monologue. With her genuine and realistic characterization, the audience could have forgotten they were watching a play. Her line delivery was clear and never lacked facial expression. Towards the end of the play, when Catherine's illness got stronger, Addis divulged the hardships through her body movement, showing Catherine's deteriorating condition. The male lead, Tom, played by Anthony DeGreen, encapsulated the effects of The Radial Dial workers' conditions on their families. He additionally portrayed the financial struggles during the time period. The leads' chemistry had the audience emotionally in touch with the impact of radium poisoning.

Catherine Donohue would not have been able to fight her case without the support of her coworkers. Charlotte, played by Angela Crawford, was a dynamic character starting with her standoffish attitude, but later, coming around to support Catherine in her darkest time. Charlotte's genuine personality made an appearance in Act Two and pushed Catherine to seek justice. Alongside Charlotte was Frances, played by Janiah Turman, the comedic relief of the play. Her one-liners lightened the mood and allowed the audience to laugh during the serious play.

The work of Lily Deye and Lachyra Lewis on costumes crew did not go unnoticed. Each costume expressed its character's personality and was period appropriate. Also, the dynamic lighting assembled by Phoenix Haigis, Randal Weaver, and Angela Crawford brought to life the tone of the play and helped identify the transitions between events. For example, in Act Two, the green lighting over the factory visibly represented the radium illness each worker was suffering. The use of blue light over the Donohue house during Tom and Catherine's difficult conversations resembled the defeat they felt over her situation.

The School for Creative And Performing Arts should be incredibly proud of their production of "These Shining Lives." Every actor, actress, and crew member visibly put forth their effort to portray the ineffable hardships of the Radial Dial Workers during the '20s and '30s.

Review by Aiden Litmer, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team

As the audience settled in and the clock started ticking, you couldn't help but feel eerily calmed by the three girls painting clocks, the beautifully controlled mess of a set, and the tantalizing performance of the opening monologue of SCPA's "These Shining Lives."

Having Premiered in 2008, "These Shining Lives" follows the story of Catherine, a wife and mother in 1920's Illinois, who, in a time of financial trouble, seeks out work at the local Radium Dial Company. As she spends her days painting watch face after watch face with radium dust, she is slowly confronted by creeping pains in her body as the audience is subjected to the frigid realism of the 20's.

Taking charge of almost every scene in the show, Jordain Addis took on the role of Catherine with unmatched confidence and care, pouring her heart into each delicately placed word and each meticulously painted watch face. It was nearly impossible to not be drawn into every speech that Addis performed, as she took the character of Catherine and made her so powerfully believable. Often alongside Catherine was her husband Tom, played by the incredibly dynamic Anthony DeGreen, who crafted an immensely nuanced character from the time that he spoke his first words on stage. The chemistry between Addis and DeGreen proved consistently wonderful and enticing, making every moment of romance and heartbreak feel nothing other than completely real.

The rest of the cast was far from overshadowed by the two breathtaking leads, as each member of the cast had their own little moments of perfection. Angela Crawford's fearless portrayal of the free-spirited and playfully feisty Charlotte was a wonderful addition to the ever-changing dynamic of the Radium Dial workers, and her development into a worn and reserved character by the end of the production made her acting prowess very clear. Helping to neutralize the harsh realities of these women's stories, Janiah Turman and Sofia Aparicio-Gallagher took on the roles of Frances and Pearl to add a little well-needed comedic relief to the show, both crafting characters as believable as seats the audience sat in, while still being quick with a joke, however corny it may have been.

To take this stellar performance to the level of believability it achieved, the technical elements were masterfully crafted and unobtrusively eye- catching. Annalyn Gauger's split-set design lent itself to dynamic transitions and a multitude of opportunities when it came to the staging of a scene, making the absolute most of an otherwise small space. The light design, done by Phoenix Haigis was nearly flawless, with each cue bringing just the right amount of illumination while never sticking out. Every cue flowed perfectly into the next and did nothing but add to the overall reality of the show. Lily Deye's costume design also deserves many rounds of applause for her well-thought-out selection of every performers costume which always seemed to match the character that they had crafted beautifully.

As tears were wiped, thunderous applause filled SCPA's blackbox theatre. What took place in that theatre was nothing short of incredible, and as you vacated your seat, it felt as though you were walking away from a real piece of history, having just witnessed one of the most stunningly woven stories of all time.

Review by Ella Terrell, Ursuline Academy Cappies Critic Team

`Everything was shining: the stage, the lights, the costumes, and the actors. The whole production of "These Shining Lives," put on by SCPA Drama Ensemble, was shining.

`In the 1920's and 1930's, women would work painting watches with radium paint; eventually, many of the women developed radium poisoning. "These Shining Lives" follows the story of four of these women with Catherine at the center of it. The audience sees how their work at Radium Dial Company affects their families, friendships, health, and emotional well-being.

`The cast put on an emotional and heartfelt production. Jordain Addis as Catherine never stumbled despite her frequent soliloquies. Addis was clear and direct with every word she spoke. Her husband in the show, Tom, played by Anthony Degreen, had the important role of showing the effects radium had on the families of those affected, but the actor also needed to be able to provide some comic relief during these heartbreaking scenes, and Degreen managed to do all of this.

`The other Radium Dial workers managed to put on a spectacular performance as well. Angela Crawford as Charlotte was impressive; every line was delivered with the perfect amount of enthusiasm. Janiah Turman as Frances played her character perfectly. She was calm and respectable but loved to gossip. Sofia Aparicia as Pearl was the kindest and most innocent person on the stage, except for when she was telling horrible knock-knock jokes.

Any stage manager has their work cut out for them in a black box, but everything ran smoothly under the careful watch of the stage manager, Eva Schramm. The same goes for sets in such an open space, but everything was carefully placed, and each detail was immaculate thanks to Annalyn Gauger.

The lights successfully highlighted every character and each of their beautiful costumes. Everything in the show was perfectly appropriate for the time period and still managed to fit the style of each of the characters.

Because of the outstanding cast and crew, the SCPA Drama Ensemble put on a shining performance of "These Shining Lives."

Excerpts from Top Reviews

“The most notable relationship seen on stage was between the character of Catherine, played by Jordain Addis, and her husband, Tom, played by Anthony DeGreen. With finesse and courage, Addis adroitly brought to life a quintessential 1920's working mother and approached the fluctuation of emotions that accompanied her sickness with a poignant spirit. There to support his wife, come hell or high water, was Tom whose strength, kindness, and heart of gold were brilliantly revealed through DeGreen's performance.”

-Sophia Rooksberry, Walnut Hills High School

“The set was in a small Blackbox, but that didn't deter from the production at all. The props were well-researched and detailed. In a true genius move, Megan Hirka (props) used yogurt with food dye to make the radium paint since the girls put it in their mouths. The sound added more drama as did the lighting.”

-Margaret Sansoucy, Randall K. Cooper High School

“Though all of the friends that Catherine made in the factory were all great in their own way, Angela Crawford, portraying Charlotte, did an excellent job playing her character as the tough one that she tries to be, and then towards the end of the show, you can clearly see that she switches to her true self as the radium poisoning drastically changes all of their lives.”

-Delaney Jennings, Randall K. Cooper High School

“The technical elements of the show rounded out the emotional production. The use of technology added a unique element to show with a clock projection at the back of the stage that changed clock faces at every scene. Some moments of the show were brought to full beauty as the projection showed photographs from the 1920s and time period-accurate music played during scene changes. The props and set pieces were made complete by small details that enhanced the authenticity of the production.”

-Lizzy Schutte, Mercy McAuley High School

“Tom, played by Anthony DeGreen, was a standout character in this performance. He was a passionate character who displayed a range of emotions. He portrayed his character with Broadway-esque authenticity that caused the audience to forget they were watching a high school production.” -Annie Farkas, Ursuline Academy

“The play's technical aspects were executed with meticulous care. SFX leader Bella Krantz, assisted by Randal Weaver, used projections to add a quiet sense of authenticity. The images not only provided historical context, but also became more distorted as the women succumbed to illness. Gigi Davis, the wig and make-up designer, selected pretty and personalized hairstyles. Charlotte's wild curls reflected her chutzpah, while Catherine's sleek bob revealed stability and composure. The sound, handled by Maya Norman, was impeccable. Jazzy music played during brief scene changes, illustrating the unique aesthetic of Roaring Twenties culture.” -Lucy Lawler, Saint Ursula Academy

“The leading lady, Jordain Addis, portrayed Catherine. She showed a mix of her character and herself that made the performance feel real. The hardships she faced as Catherine made a believable performance. The lead actor, Anthony DeGreen, was the image of a perfect and supporting husband to Catherine. His emotion towards her created a visible chemistry that tied their family together, making his performance spectacular.”

-Lizzy Wheeler, Roger Bacon High School

About The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati

The Critics and Awards Program strives to recognize Greater Cincinnati’s talented community of young writers, performers, and technical crews. High school theatre and journalism students who participate in the Cappies program are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, and write and publish reviews. At the end of the school year, the student critics vote to give awards to their fellow students for outstanding productions, group and individual performances, and achievements in technical categories. Awards are presented at the annual Cappies Gala. Find more reviews at

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