(from left) Megan Potter (Kate Keller),
Joshua Stenvick (Captain Keller), Chelsea Reller (Helen Keller), and Kate Zehr (Anne Sullivan).
At the age of 19 months, Helen Keller developed a high fever that eventually took away her ability to see and to hear and as a result, left her mute. Unable to communicate with her parents and the world around her, she became an unruly and undisciplined child. Then in 1887, just before Keller turned seven, a young woman, Anne Sullivan, came to be her teacher. Keller would later describe it as, "The most important day I can remember in my life."
The play, The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, presents Keller’s journey as Sullivan helps her connect with the world around her. The play will be presented Feb. 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, and 18 at 7:30 pm and on Sun., Feb. 12 at 2 pm in the Marshall Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available online or by calling 218-726-8561.
UMD faculty, staff, and students can get 2 for 1 tickets for the Thurs., Feb. 9 and Wed., Feb. 15 performances. Call the UMD box office for tickets at 218-726-8561. There will also be a performance for elementary, middle school, and high school students on Feb. 14.
Director Lee Gundersheimer said while he and the cast have worked to honor the historical significance of the events that occur in the play, they have also worked to bring forth what he calls “the universality of the miracle.” The actors have discussed “what would have happened to Helen and her family, if Anne hadn’t come or if Anne had become discouraged and left. That’s the miracle. It’s about doing what matters. It's about not letting go," he said.
Gundersheimer said that they have also spent a lot of time exploring the themes of prejudice, inclusivity, and diversity inherent in the play. “A lot of people would have said to just shut Helen away. This play reminds us of how important it is to let people find their voice.”
On Sun., Feb. 12, following the performance (location to be determined), members from two UMD student organizations, the American Sign Language Club and Access for All, will lead a panel discussion. Both of these organizations are dedicated to promoting disability awareness on campus and around the community. Members from these two student organizations will be ushering at that performance. They will also be selling Disability Awareness shirts in the lobby before the show. Proceeds go to the two clubs.
On Wed., Feb. 15, following the performance, Gundersheimer and some of the cast members will take part in a "Talk Back" on stage, allowing members of the audience to ask questions about the production.
With funding from the College of Education and Human Service Professions and the School of Fine Arts, all of the performances of The Miracle Worker will be interpreted through American Sign Language (ASL).“We will interpret any performance that someone requests in advance, and we always offer some shows that are interpreted through ASL, but I believe this is the first time it will be offered for all performances,” Gundersheimer said.
He added that this is a perfect show for families. "How often in Duluth is affordable live entertainment for an entire family readily available?" Gundersheimer said.
Written by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann, January 2012.