Pellissippi State presents play about determined women versus corporate greed, based on a true story

Four women students, one looking at the camera.
Kat Wilcox-Chelimsky, Rachael Allion, Peyton Southworth and Grace Elyn Berry star in “These Shining Lives,” the next production in The Arts at Pellissippi State series.

The strength and determination of women workers considered expendable in their day are at the center of “These Shining Lives,” the next production in The Arts at Pellissippi State series.

There are six chances to see “These Shining Lives” at Pellissippi State Community College: 7:30 p.m. April 5-6 and April 12-13, as well as 2 p.m. April 7 and 14. All performances will be held in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

Based on a true story, “These Shining Lives” chronicles Catherine Donahue and her friends who are dying of radium poisoning after spending the 1920s and 1930s painting glow-in-the-dark markings on watch dials. Despite their dire situation, the women refuse to allow the company that stole their health to kill their spirits – or to endanger the lives of those who come after them.

The real Donohue died in 1938, shortly after testifying before the Illinois Industrial Commission. The women won damages against the real Radium Dial Company in 1938, although Radium Dial appealed over and over, taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1939 the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal, and the lower ruling was upheld.

“This is an important story because it shows how historically, and even today, those possessed of wealth and power – in this case, corporate America – often care first about maintaining that wealth and power even over the lives of those they deem less worthy than their own,” said Theatre Program Coordinator Charles R. Miller, who is directing the play at Pellissippi State. “This play is about the callousness of corporate America and how they often put profit above people’s lives, to a criminal extent, and how they will do anything to protect themselves from the truth of their actions.”

With the exception of a guest lighting designer from the University of Tennessee’s award-winning lighting design program and Associate Professor Claude Hardy, who is handling set design and technical direction for the play, everyone backstage and on stage during “These Shining Lives” is a Pellissippi State student, Miller noted. There are six actors in the cast and about a dozen other students involved in the production.

“One might say this is a capstone project for our first graduating class of Associate of Fine Arts students,” Miller said. “The AFA students graduating this spring with their AFAs in Theatre will be the first ever in the state’s history.”

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for Pellissippi State faculty, staff and students. Tickets are available online at

For more information on upcoming visual arts and music events, as well as the Faculty Lecture Series, at Pellissippi State, visit To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email