Radium Girls

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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Radium Girls The play Radium Girls portrays Corporate America's values in the mid-1920's. It shows how money can become more important than the people who work under you. Some executives showed this by just not caring about the well being of the employees, and others by tricking themselves into believing it's not their fault. The director and designers had to show these ideas not only through the text of the play, but also with the set, costumes and lighting. The set was relatively simplistic, so most of the focus was placed on the lighting and costumes. By incorporating all three of these aspects of design into one theme, the designers were able to set an atmosphere that helped portray that theme to the audience.

One of the first things you notice about an actor or actress is how they are dressed. The outfits of the Radium Girls immediately indicated a time and place.

It was easy to tell that the play was taking place in the 1920's and the girls were workers at some business. Repetition in an outfit can easily identify workers because it can show that it is a uniform. The economic status was reflected between the executives and the painters by the difference in their costumes. The executives were dressed in nice suits, once again reflecting the style of the 20's, and the girls were in cheap dresses. This difference in attire made it completely clear to the audience who was in charge, even without a word being spoken. Costumes may also be used to reflect the mood and atmosphere of a scene. The executives were still dressed in their suits when they found out about the danger of radium. Their suits were still pressed, their shirts were still neatly tucked in, and their ties were fastened securely along the neck at all times. This consistency in their appearance throughout the play showed how the executives weren't bothered with this new danger. The radium didn't affect them physically, and their ongoing upscale dress showed how they weren't bothered with the danger they were putting their employees in. All this was being implied to the audience without the use of dialogue and helped show the executives' view of placing their own monetary values above the well being of their workers.

Costumes were just one of the tools used by the director to show the values of the corporation. Lighting was also very helpful in implying the executives' obvious denial that they were doing any harm. The distribution of light was used to show separation once again between the workers and executives. When the spotlight was used back and forth from a worker talking to the audience to an executive addressing the audience, it showed the necessary distance that the exec's placed between themselves and the painters. An executive would be shown on one side of the stage by a bright light, then the stage went dark and another bright light would show the worker. The distinct separation with this lighting arrangement helped show how the executives could make themselves believe that what they were doing wasn't wrong. If they placed themselves away from the workers well being, then they felt that it wasn't there fault that their product was hurting the employees. All of this was implied once again without the use of words.

By using other tools allotted to them, a director can help ease the audiences understanding of what is going on throughout the play. The underlying theme was shown not only with words, but also with the costumes and lighting in the play. With all these factors in place, it takes some pressure off the audience into using their imagination about the time, place, mood, and atmosphere, and shifting it more to understanding what the actors are trying to say in their words. If all the actors were all dressed the same, and shown in the same even light throughout the play, the task of a critical audience understanding the underlying theme of the play would be more difficult.