Sewell Barn Theatre, Constitution Hill, Norwich NR3 4BB               Box office: 01603 626414                   Sewell Barn Trust: Registered Charity No 277724

The Sewell Barn Company

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These Shining Lives

By Melanie Marnich

Director: Jessica Hutchings

Contact details: ; 07432418888

Performance dates: 10–12; 16–19 January  2019 (including a matinee 19 January)


Catherine Donohue has secured a job at Radium Dial. For a young woman in 1920’s Illinois this is unusual, however the work simple and the money is good. Catherine and her colleagues are to paint the hour markings onto different sized watch dials using a radium compound which glows in the dark. Catherine has heard of the health benefits of Radium, and following the re-assurance of her supervisor doesn’t immediately worry when her hands start glowing in the dark. As the condition of Catherine and her colleagues worsens, they decide to raise their concerns to Radium Dial’s management and company doctor. The women are subsequently ignored, shamed and eventually dismissed. Inspired real people and events, These Shining Lives tells of Catherine’s empowering and heart-breaking fight for the rights of her and her friends, transforming employment conditions for the better.
These Shining Lives premiered at Baltimore Centre Stage, Maryland on April 30th 2008. The play is at times choral and others docudrama. It is not split into acts, with transitions between play sections being fluid and continuous an essential aspect. This is a great opportunity for actors with energy, spirit and verve to take on challenging roles.


Catherine Donohue: Employee at Radium Dial, wife of Tom and mother of two. She is the main character and narrator of the play. In real life, Catherine’s courage to give evidence and determination was instrumental in her fight for justice for herself and her colleagues. Catherine is on stage for the duration of the play, and this role will NOT include doubling. If you are interested in auditioning for this role please speak with the director.
Frances O’Connoll: Employee at Radium dial. Focused and motivated, with a strong sense of morals. Trusting of her superiors and observant, she becomes more critical as the play progresses. Some singing is required.
Charlotte Purcell: Employee at Radium dial. Intelligent, critical and speaks her mind. What she lacks in optimism she makes up for in resilience. Some singing required.
Pearl Payne: Employee at Radium Dial. Young at heart and confident. Loves the camaraderie that comes with her work, and takes the opportunities she is presented with. Some singing required.

Tom Donohue: Husband of Catherine. A good man, committed and very much in love.

Mr Rufus Reed: Supervisor at Radium Dial.

Additional Characters: Reporter 1; Reporter 2; Official; Radio Announcer; Daughter; Son; Judge 1;

Judge 2; Dr. Rowntree, Dr Dalitsch; Company Doctor; Leonard Grossman.

These roles will be played by the cast (apart from Catherine) or by additional ators.

As a general rule, auditionees for primary characters should have a playing age of mid-late twenties, with the exception of Mr Reed who can be older. I would like to see auditions from any age, gender etc. for additional characters.

NB: Catherine, Frances, Charlotte and Pearl will not be played as victims in any way, and should never sink into sentimentality or weakness.


Tuesday 28th and Thursday 30th August - 7.30pm in the Barn

Auditionees for the role of Catherine will be required to prepare and perform a monologue. If you are considering auditioning for this role, please contact the director for a copy of the monologue and to confirm an audition timeslot. For all other roles, audition pieces will be provided upon arrival on the night of the audition. All auditionees are encouraged to read the play. If you are unable to make the audition date, please contact the director as soon as possible to make another arrangement.


Core rehearsals will take place on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Sunday rehearsals will be allocated according to ad hoc/individual requirements in the early stages, and then used to run the play later. Rehearsals will begin week of Monday 24 September.


Dramatists: ISBN 9780822224488