The Red Fern Theater Company has brought a very special production to the 14th street Y this week and next week. Shirley Lauro‘s The Radiant is set one hundred years ago in France, and centers around the life of the brilliant Madame Marie Curie, the positives, the negatives, the hardships and the successes. We were lucky enough to get a glimpse into the journey this play took through the lense of the actress playing Madame Curie herself, Diana LaMar.
Diana, how did the process of creating this play begin?
The playwright, Shirley Lauro, received a commission from the Sloan/EST foundation in 2008. She did a few workshops and a production in Florida before this New York premiere. The process has been important for us, the actors working on the production, but also for Shirley to hear the play again and make any adjustments necessary.
Can you give us a little background on what the play is about?
The play tell’s the story of the relationship between Marie Curie and Pierre Curie’s former lab student, which blossom’s after the tragic death of Pierre Curie. When this relationship is discovered, there are a lot of tragic consequences. The publicity almost costs her a second Nobel. Also, throughout this entire period, she is slowly being poisoned by the radiation from the radium she is exposed to. Overall, the play really looks at this tumultuous relationship, and its slow negative effects on Marie Curie.
Can you talk a little bit about Madame Curie as a female scientist at the time?
Madame Curie was the first women ever to get her doctorate from the University of Paris and the first women to teach at the Sorbonne. She created a lot of firsts! Not only was she given a hard time because of her gender, but people also suspected that she might be Jewish. The playwright, Shirley, believed her to have some Jewish roots, and traveled to Europe and Poland to get more information about her history. Whether Madame Curie actually came from a Jewish family or not, this idea was publicized at the time. However, Marie Curie was an incredibly focused women that did not let any rumors distract her from her work.
How much of the play is based on fact?
The premise is entirely factual. Parts of her speeches that she gives in the play were pulled from her exact speeches. Some of the newspaper headlines were real headlines from the time. She really did have a relationship with Paul, the lab student. She did have two children, but the character of her niece, Katerina is fictitious. It is based on a true story, but the playwright had to take some liberties and make certain choices to give in the drama needed in a play.
How does it feel to play Madame Marie Curie?
She is too brilliant for me to portray in some respects. The play is really about the personal relationship and struggle of this extraordinary woman at a very particular time in history. Some of her human struggle I can relate to. It can be pretty exhausting because it’s such a large part, but it is definitely an exciting challenge.
How can we learn more?
Visit our website at http://http://www.redferntheatre.org/p_the_radiant.asp
Tickets can be found by clicking here.
A special discount is available for Y Members. Tickets are $20 off the regular price (use code 14StY20 at checkout).