‘The Miracle Worker’ performance sheds light on overcoming obstacles
By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist
As the crowd settled in for “The Miracle Worker” last weekend, PHS Theatre teacher Jamie Stephenson welcomed them.
“Most people think that ‘The Miracle Worker’ is a play about Helen Keller,” said Stephenson. “In reality, it’s the true story of an amazing teacher who worked against incredible odds to reach her student.”
Meredith Revel, the PHS actress who played the role of Helen Keller, was magical. Revel authentically portrayed a young girl who, without the gift of speech or sight, still managed to reveal her mischievous nature.
Perhaps we come to this play expecting to see the story of a helpless blind and deaf child; however, we encounter instead a human child learning to trust, discovering her talents and working with her teacher.
“One of the play’s themes is about overcoming obstacles. The Keller family could have given up on Helen, but their persistence is what inspires us,” said Revel.
Teacher Anne Sullivan’s persistence inspires also. To be a teacher is to be a stubborn soul, to believe that students can work harder, dig deeper, and grow into the adults committed to shaping caring communities.
“Sullivan treated Helen Keller as if she were a seeing and hearing child and her expectations were high. She never allowed Helen to pity herself or be lazy. That is what teachers do, we push our students past what they thought they could do,” said Stephenson.
Teachers who encourage and push harder allow kids to discover that they can achieve more than they dared to imagine.
“Sharing stories like Helen’s is theatre’s way of changing perceptions. We aim to touch lives and open the hearts and minds of our audiences,” said PHS actress Anna Smith who played Helen’s Aunt Ev.
“Many people overlook everything that teachers learn from their students. Playing the role of Helen’s teacher, I realized how much teacher/student interaction shapes true learning,” said PHS actress Kaylie Rose Elward.
Elward’s remarkable portrayal of Sullivan was movingly authentic. Her performance revealed that, in order to insure their students’ success, committed teachers will never give up.