These Shining Lives brings historical tragedy to life

by Courtney Murphy

Chronicling the heartbreaking true story of Catherine Donohue, one of the “Radium Girls” of the 1920s and 1930s, These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich is running March 6, 7, 8, 13 and 14 as Whitworth Theatre’s spring production.

These Shining Lives, directed by guest director Susan Hardie, was performed by a small cast consisting of sophomore Alanna Hamilton as Catherine Donohue, junior Molly Daniels, junior Becca Seideman and sophomore Hayley O’Brien as the Catherine’s coworkers, sophomore Weston Whitener as Tom Donohue, Catherine’s husband, and senior Bryan Peterson as Mr. Reed, Catherine’s boss. This cast of six is the smallest for a Mainstage production in a long time, Hamilton said.

[Having a small cast] really encouraged us to get to know each other. The girls especially have to have a really bantery dynamic like they’re just talking, and they have to portray that they’ve been working together for nine years,” Hamilton said. This organic relationship between characters was difficult to achieve at first, Hamilton said, but was convincing throughout the play.

Hamilton, a theater and business double major, started acting in the second grade, and has had several roles in Whitworth Theatre productions during her time as a student here. Last year, she played Lydia Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, and for The Drowsy Chaperone last fall, she was a member of the ensemble. However, playing a real historical figure such as Catherine Donohue was a new experience for Hamilton.

“Because she was real, it kind of raises the stakes that you get [the performance] right, that you perform and bring her honor and respect her,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton perfected her performance as Donohue through character analysis and digging into Donohue’s background, with the assistance of guest director Susan Hardie. Hardie often works with the Spokane Civic Theatre, and won a Kaleidoscope award for directing Turn of the Screw in 2011.

Hardie previously directed All My Sons at Whitworth in 2012. By using improv exercises to help the cast learn more about their characters, Hardie proved to be a different style of director than Hamilton and other cast members had experienced before.

“She was very intimate, like a one-on-one style of director. She always really stressed knowing the meaning of the words,” Hamilton said.

The play’s script is very poetic, featuring several monologues by Hamilton and the other cast members. It also has moments of political and personal tension, which add drama and suspense to the performance.

“I really like my ending monologue because even though it’s a sad ending, [the monologue] gives a lot of hope and shines a light,” Hamilton said.

Freshman political science major Anna Burt also enjoyed Hamilton’s ending monologue about time.

“It was really good,” Burt said. Although Burt had not attended a Whitworth Theatre production in the past, she enjoyed These Shining Lives and used words such as “phenomenal” and “outstanding” to describe it.

The Whitworth Theatre production of These Shining Lives continues March 13 and 14 at 7:30 pm in Cowles Auditorium Mainstage.

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