These Shining Lives

 Spring Season 2015 Audition Notice
These Shining Lives
Written by Melanie Marnich
Directed by Kate Moore
Tuesday 17 – Saturday 21 March 2015
The Lion and Unicorn Theatre
1. Auditions
You do not need to prepare anything in advance. Auditions will take the form of improvisations
and cold readings using scenes from the script. The play spans sixteen years, from 1922 to 1938,
so I’ll be looking for actors who have the ability to play both young and old(er), energetic and
world-weary, and take the audience with them on that sixteen-year journey. This production will
be staged in the round, so I’ll also be looking out for actors who can physically embody their
characters – making them as interesting to watch from the sides and the back as from the front.
On the night you will be asked to fill in a preference form so that we have your contact details
and know if there are any specific parts you'd like to audition for.
Date: 12th, 13th & 14th January. Please come on whichever day suits you
Time: 7pm
Venue: Clean Break Studios, 2 Patshull Road, Kentish Town, NW5 2LB. The nearest tube is
Kentish Town
Recalls will be on Saturday 17th January from 10am to 2pm. You will be called on Friday 16th if
we'd like to see you again.
2. Show Dates
We’ll be performing from Tuesday17th to Saturday 21st March at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre
in Kentish Town. The shows will start at 7.30pm and you’ll need to be at the theatre at least an
hour beforehand. The dress rehearsal will be on Monday 16th March. You will need to be free
from midday onwards, possibly all day.
3. Rehearsals
Rehearsals will be on Monday and Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons/evenings. All
rehearsals will be in central London.
4. About the Play
These Shining Lives is based on a true story – the story of the Radium Girls: ordinary working
women who were terminally poisoned in the course of their employment (their job was to draw
numbers onto watch faces with radium paint) and who fought with courage and tenacity to
bring their employers to justice. If this was a film pitch, the play is Erin Brockovich meets Made
in Dagenham, dusted with the emotional power of Love Story and starring the Pink Ladies from
Grease: all set in the Roaring Twenties. Though the women are dying, theirs is a story of
survival in its most transcendent sense, as they refuse to allow the company that stole their
health to kill their spirits – or endanger the lives of those who come after them. It’s a
challenging, demanding play for both male and female actors.
The play comprises twenty scenes that flow seamlessly and fluidly together. Such fluidity
requires a minimal set; the play will be brought to life through period costume and – most
importantly of all – impeccable character acting from a tight-knit ensemble cast. Marnich has
written a beautiful script, rich in relationships, and rehearsals will use that script as a starting
point to flesh out the characters’ back stories, building on the source material through
improvisation and detailed character work so that actors can create fully rounded
interpretations. Given the play is so much about time – the women painting watch faces, even
as time is running out for them – the soundscape of this production will be built on ticking
clocks, as well as authentic music from the 1920s and 1930s.
5. Accents
The play is set in Illinois and Chicago, USA, so general American accents are required. Please do
not let accents scare you or put you off auditioning. You do not need to audition in accent
unless you feel comfortable doing so. I would much rather see what you can do than see you
focusing on the accent.
6. Cast Breakdown
10 actors (4 women, 6 men)
Female parts
All four actresses need to be able to perform comedy and tragedy equally well. Their early
scenes together are all quick-witted banter and high-energy humour – but each woman also
plays a scene in which she is diagnosed with a terminal illness and has to face the imminent
reality of her own death. All four women are brave, strong, spirited heroines. They are never
victims. They are a close-knit group and the chemistry between their different personalities is
hugely important.
Catherine (20s-30s)
Catherine is the audience’s Everywoman in the play, their way in to the story – she narrates
directly to the audience and is in every scene in the play, requiring a huge amount of stamina.
A significant part of the play examines the relationship between Catherine and her husband
Tom, and how their loving partnership is affected first by her decision to work at all, later by
her initial worries about her health, and finally by her diagnosis and her decision to go to court.
She is by turns gutsy, scared, resolute, affectionate, intimate – and always likeable. She has
several monologues delivered on stage alone, so the actress will need to have a commanding
stage presence. Given the fluidity of the play, she also needs to be able to switch quickly between
scenes, settings and emotions smoothly and convincingly.
Charlotte (20s-30s)
If these Radium Girls are the Pink Ladies, Charlotte is the Rizzo character. She is fast-talking,
fast-living, bolshy and bold, funny, sexy, cynical and wild – yet with perhaps the most sensitive
soul of all the women hidden inside her brash exterior; a sensitivity she only sometimes lets
Pearl (20s-30s)
Pearl is the joker of the group (literally: she has a passion for ‘knock, knock’ jokes). She is sweet,
friendly, and eager to please. A bit of a giggler, she comes across as the youngest of the girls.
Frances (20s-40s)
Frances is the ‘moral backbone’ of the gang, and has the potential to be played by an older
actress to the rest of the women. While she is more serious and reserved than the others, she
also has a very dry sense of humour and a big heart, and she is well-loved and well-respected by
her friends.
Male parts
Tom (20s-30s)
Tom is married to Catherine. This is a role demanding huge range from an actor, as Tom needs
to express the full gamut of emotions, from injured male pride (when his wife first starts to
work – and earns more than him) to overwhelming love; terrified fear to heartbreaking grief;
murderous anger to burning passion. There is also plenty of back story to explore: Tom fought
in the First World War and his experiences there clearly had a powerful impact upon him;
Catherine saved him, but he cannot save her…
Mr Reed (any age)
Mr Reed is the foreman of Radium Dial, the company where the women work. The actor playing
him will need to decide how much he knows about the terminal effect of the radium, when he
knows it, and why he keeps working there regardless, even though he knows the work is killing
the women. This part requires an actor who can express wordlessly what he is thinking or
feeling – or, rather, express it even while the script may be giving him lines that don’t give away
those emotions.
Dr Dalitsch (any age)
Dr Dalitsch is the one doctor who is honest with the women, and he is the one who delivers the
diagnosis that they will die because of the radium poisoning. He is blunt yet kind, a good soul.
His presence changes the energy in the play. He appears in only two scenes, in his doctor’s
office and on the stand at the trial, so this role may suit a brilliant actor who does not have the
time to commit to a large role this season.
Leonard Grossman (any age)
Leonard Grossman, attorney at law, is the take-no-prisoners lawyer who agrees to represent
the women in court. He is a showman: charismatic, confident, dominating the stage with huge
energy. He is an impassioned socialist and a brilliant lawyer, as well as a frank realist; he’s
quick-witted and fast-talking, yet also kind. He takes the case because it’s the right thing to do,
not to make money. Grossman appears in only three scenes in the play, so again this part would
suit a great actor who may be looking for a smaller time commitment this season.
Reporter 1 / Dr Rowntree / Radio announcer (any age)
These parts require a very versatile actor, as they’re all quite different. The two reporters are
frequently onstage in this production, each time bringing high energy and dynamism to their
appearances with their ‘read all about it!’ cries. An ability to deliver comic ad libs would be a
plus. Dr Rowntree is a kind of early ‘TV doctor’, more concerned with his appearance on the
cover of the latest medical journal and the sound of his own voice than with scientific fact. The
radio announcer is a slick and smarmy radio DJ, with more than a hint of high-end used-car
salesman about him.
Reporter 2 / Company doctor (any age)
As above, reporter 2 is a part that demands high energy and charisma, and is frequently
onstage, keeping the pace up throughout the production. This actor will also play the company
doctor, in a truly uncomfortable scene with Catherine, where he denies anything is wrong with
her at all, toeing the company line. As with Mr Reed, this part requires an actor who can
communicate narrative beyond what’s on the page. He should provoke a feeling of
untrustworthiness and portentousness, even while his words are seemingly intended to