Tempting as it is to believe my labors are all for naught, I am occasionally confronted with a different reality. This time it is a note card from the exhausted but grateful and excited cast and crew of RADIUM GIRLS at The Shea Theater in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Director Robert Freedman kindly forwarded a review from the local press (quite positive), a copy of the program, a DVD of production photos, and a card full of love. Witness:
A play for all time. Thank you for bringing such an important topic out in the open. Dr. Knef turned out to be quite the complex character. Thank you, John Meisner (Dr. Knef).
Thanks for creating such a compelling story and such a complex CEO. Wonderful Work! Jim Lobley (a.k.a. ‘Artie’).
A pleasure of a part–‘Wiley,’ Thank you, Dee Waterman.
And it goes on –gushing praise from a cast of 20.
Since RADIUM GIRLS debuted at Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey more than 10 years ago now, it has received upwards of 200 productions throughout the country—most of them in high schools, but more and more of them in little theatres, community theatres, universities, and the occasional non-Equity professional theatre.
I confess to having been bitterly disappointed when the play failed to attract the attention of major professional theatres after its premiere at Playwrights–where it was a real hit and earned me high praise from The New York Times. When the script was picked up by Dramatic, I was hopeful for more productions. And I got them – eight high school shows the first year.
The day I got that letter from my publisher announcing those productions, I broke down and cried. Three years of hard labor to bring that play to its feet and all it deserved were high school shows? I marked myself a failure.
Then the royalty checks started coming in—the number of productions began to accelerate—and I was forced to reconsider my definition of success. Since then, I’ve heard from a number of drama teachers and students excited to work on a play that tells a powerful and important story, that puts young women front and center as active agents of change, and that offers young actors challenging roles.
This note from Robert and his cast is another reminder that “success” is a relative term. How can we ever know the full impact of our work? As playwrights, we seldom do. We can only cast our bread upon the waters—and occasionally, be gratified that something comes back to us, to tell us that we’ve written something that matters, because it inspires other artists to undertake the hard labor of bringing that story to life.
It’s a wonderful feeling. Thanks Robert and thanks to your cast and crew.