The ability to see and to hear are not attributes to take for granted.  Their loss, once you have enjoyed them, would be devastating.  Imagine for a moment you’re the mother of a nineteen month old baby suddenly stricken with an acute illness, perhaps scarlet fever or meningitis, and when the fever breaks, your child can no longer see your face or hear your voice.  That is the trauma that occurred when Kate Keller held her infant Helen and discovered she was blind and deaf.

For a remarkable theatrical experience, venture to the Ivoryton Playhouse until Sunday, October 11 to see “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson.  The young Helen Keller, masterfully portrayed by Jenilee Lea Simons Marques, who is deaf herself, is locked in a world of darkness, given to temper tantrums, unable to communicate with a family, her mother Kate (Elizabeth Erwin), her father (Bif Carrington) and brother James (Michael Raver), who is powerless to help her.

As a last resort, her parents hire a young, headstrong teacher from Boston, only twenty years of age herself, who has endured nine operations on her eyes, so she understands what it is like to not be sighted.  Arriving in Alabama in the late 1880’s, Andrea Maulella’s Annie Sullivan takes on the mammoth task of taming the wild child and using touch and sign language to break through Helen’s fear and isolation,  Maulella is wonderfully gifted in her role as Helen’s savior.

Helen Keller would go on to become a noted author, political activist and lecturer, to be the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, in this case from Radcliffe, to travel to thirty-nine countries and to meet every United States President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon Johnson.  A good friend of Mark Twain, she was beloved by the Japanese people who gave her an Akita dog which she introduced in this country.  Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of two top civilian honors, she raised tremendous funds for the American Foundation for the Blind, was honored by Alabama in 2003 on its state quarter and named, in 1999, on the Gallop Poll’s Most Widely Admired People of the Twentieth Century.

Jacqueline Hubbard directs this powerful production, presented in collaboration with the National Theatre of the Deaf, on a set designed by Cully Long.  For tickets ($35 for adults, $30 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children) call the Ivoryton Playhouse,103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.   Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. There will be a signed performance for the deaf on Saturday, October 3rd at 8pm.

Imagine what the world would have lost if Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller had never met and enjoyed a friendship that lasted almost five decades.

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