NKHS drama club performs

Helen Keller’s life contained enough drama for several plays. But one “The Miracle Worker,” has managed to remain pertinent and popular for almost 50 years.

Keller, born blind and deaf, was indulged by her parents until a teacher, Annie Sullivan, sought to channel Keller’s amazing vitality, skill and talent. Keller and Sullivan’s lives were intertwined for more than three decades; the girl who once could not speak became an articulate author and champion of social causes.

Now North Kitsap High School drama club will tackle “The Miracle Worker,” performing the play at 7 p.m. Nov. 2, 3, 9 and 10 at the community center auditorium.

The cost will be $5.

“It’s really a strong script,” drama teacher Sharon Ferguson said during a rare break from rehearsal this week. “We have talented women this year. This is a women’s play — there aren’t many of them — and I wanted to make sure we had something to challenge the women.”

The play, which has a cast of 22, contains much drama; tension among the Keller family about how to raise the disruptive Helen; tension between the Kellers and Sullivan, who sought to discipline Helen; and tension between Helen and her teacher.

The tension expressed itself in many ways, verbal and otherwise, Ferguson said.

“The breakfast scene,” she said, “is nine pages of blocking, no dialogue of all. They fight, they throw food and silverware — the whole thing.”

The scene is an attempt by Sullivan to discipline Helen. Helen, used to circling the table and picking food off people’s plates, was challenged by Sullivan. A fight ensues.

That kind of drama, and that kind of depth, is what attracted the young actors and actresses to the play.

“I think this is the most challenging role I’ve ever taken on in my whole life,” said Erika Nelson, who plays Helen Keller.

Because Keller cannot see or hear, Nelson learned that she could not give her senses away onstage.

“Things I normally would react to, like sight or sound, I can’t,” she said. “When someone’s shouting above my ears I have to look away or not react to it.”

Sylvie Davidson, who plays Annie Sullivan, said she was glad to have a historical person to play and not a made-up one.

“She’s a very complicated character, because she’s a real person,” Davidson said.

To play the rigid disciplinarian Sullivan, Davidson said, she researched the role with library books and web sites. She even discovered that she looked a bit like Sullivan — “The same nose and face,” she said.

Davidson thinks the story is universal.

She said, “it’s a really powerful story about interaction between people.”

Some of the other actors and actresses include Pat Cox, Andrea Bomgaars, Jonathan Christensen, Amanda Fuller, Jay Logan, Lizzie Diehl, Robin Johnson, and Jamison Rogayan.

Student Sarah Fulford and art department head Doug Dammarell worked on the sets, with help by Balin Vicari and Mike Richardson.

Debbie Whitely, Samantha Kottke, and Nicholette Neff designed the costumes.

The set includes a working water pump and several water pitchers. Actually 14 of them ... more victims of the conflict between Keller and Sullivan.

“The pottery class made them,” Ferguson said. “We break a lot of pitchers.”

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