A familiar story with a fresh focus will come to Performance Hall beginning Thursday, April 18. Senior dramatic production major Becca Bartle will direct The Miracle Worker as her senior project.
Senior performance studies major Becca Gossage will play the lead role of Anne Sullivan to fulfill her degree requirements as well.
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on April 18 to 20, 22, and 24 to 26. There will be an additional matinée at 2:30 p.m. on April 20. Tickets are available at Programs and Productions and cost $6.50.
Written by William Gibson, The Miracle Worker first hit theaters in 1959. The play tells the story of Helen Keller’s discovery of language with the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, Bartle explained.
The play adds some details, but most of the scenes and plot historically depict their lives. Even the letters written during the play copy Anne’s original letters.
“A lot of people think it’s the story of Helen Keller,” Gossage said. “But the way the script is written, it’s really Anne’s story of how she redeems herself.” Anne’s little brother has died, and she becomes completely consumed with his death until she begins teaching Helen.
“[Anne and Helen] kind of together free themselves,” Bartle said. “I’m hoping to convey the theme that people are locked in [cages]. Helen is locked in herself, and the family is locked into the world of Helen. With Anne and language, they are unlocked.”
Gossage emphasized that Anne teaches Helen not only words but language itself. “It really taught me how important language is, as an actor and as a person,” she said. “Language is the light through which we see in the mind.”
Both Bartle and Gossage said they learned a lot during their work on the play. Bartle said she gained a new respect for actors and what they do and that she found watching them bring the play to life very rewarding.
Gossage thoroughly researched her character to better understand her story and even had to learn the sign language alphabet. Her part also included many lines and complicated blocking (stage movement directions) to practice for some of the scenes.
Most audience members might feel they know the story of Helen Keller well, but this production will add a few surprise elements. It also has a good deal of action for a Performance Hall play.
“Even though we all know how it ends, the characters just spring into life,” Bartle said. “And [we’re] doing some things that haven’t been done before. It’s a surprise — come watch it, and you’ll see.”
The actors play the famous breakfast fight scene between Anne and Helen. “Helen and I fight over the breakfast table. There’s no lines — we just have this all-out brawl on stage,” Gossage said. She continued, “It’s very physical, sarcastic and funny, but it’s very touching and moving. I think [the audience] will really enjoy it.”