Imagine navigating your college career without your sight, hearing, or ability to speak. American educator and activist Helen Keller did just that when she was the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree of the arts, but none of this would have been possible without some kind of miracle worker.
No Refund Theatre’s performance of “The Miracle Worker” — an adaptation of William Gibson’s 1957 Broadway play — centers around Keller’s stunning relationship with Annie Sullivan, the teacher who would render the once afflicted young girl into the bright and communicative icon we remember her as today.
Based on Hellen Keller’s autobiography The Story of My Life, the story begins at Keller’s childhood home in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her family, frustrated by their daughter’s obstinate and violent behavior, sits on the verge of sending her to an asylum.
The family’s last hope is the young governess Sullivan who, once blind herself, sees the potential in Keller that her family does not. Instead of spoiling and pitying her, Sullivan is determined to treat Keller like a girl who can already see. By isolating Keller in the family’s garden home for two weeks, Sullivan is able to reach Keller in ways others could not. When Keller’s father questions Sullivan’s methods, she replies, “misunderstanding is its own form of blindness.”
Director Elizabeth Kreider, a junior secondary education major and a special education minor, has been in previous productions of the play. For her, the storyline is extra personal.
“Being a special education minor, and having worked at a camp for kids with special needs, this play really hits home for me,” she said. “I think I want people to really think about how we relate to people with special needs and how we should be looking at their abilities and not just their disabilities.”
For this reason, the crew was prepared for a lengthy casting process. Kreider knew casting this show would be more difficult than shows in the past.
“It’s definitely a sensitivity that we paid a lot of attention to,” Kreider said. “I have resources in the Special Education and Communication Sciences and Disorders departments. Sarah (casted as Helen Keller) is absolutely wonderful. She did a lot of research. She put a lot of hard work into this. That was definitely different from what normal productions would encounter.”
NRT will present “The Miracle Worker” on November 10 and 11 at 9 p.m. in the HUB Flex Theatre for both performances. For more information about the cast and for further updates on the show, check out the Facebook event here.