Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011

Acacia Presents The Story of Helen Keller

Theatre company brings William Gibson’s MIRACLE WORKER to the stage

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Helen Keller is a figure out of history we often take for granted. The name has come to overshadow our understanding of the person a great deal. Hers is just another name in the lexicon of American history like so many others we read about in textbooks. Getting out beyond the shadow of the name is the great challenge of anyone looking to produce William Gibson’s Helen Keller drama The Miracle Worker. It’s a challenge Acacia Theatre has been tackling on its way into opening night of its latest production later on this month.

Some of the struggle of getting beyond the weight of the name is accomplished simply in telling the story. The unique struggles of Keller require almost a different kind of theatre—one in which concrete drama is at times almost exclusively brought across in non-verbal action.

Dustin J. Martin directs the production. He’s been involved in the theatre company for more than10 years, working on 20 productions with them as actor or director. In the show’s press release, Martin mentions the rather unique parameters of the script:

“I am intrigued by the sheer amount of stage directions involved in the scenes with Helen and Annie.” Says Martin. “For example, the famous breakfast scene between Annie and Helen is over 5 pages of scripted stage directions with no lines.  I am quite excited to work on that scene in particular.”

As an audience member, there becomes an increased sensitivity to the body language of everyone onstage when watching a show like this. I remember having a profound hyper-sensitivity to physical action onstage for months after watching a Soulstice Theatre production of Children of a Lesser God. Given Martin’s experience with this particular theatre company, this could be every bit as intense in its nonverbal moments.

Acacia Theatre’s production of The Miracle Worker runs October 21st – 30th at Concordia University's Todd Wehr Auditorium. For ticket reservations, call 414-744-5995.

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