ACT takes on tough roles in 'Miracle Worker'

Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writerJanuary 11, 2013 

Amethyst Parsons is tackling the difficult task of portraying Annie Sullivan in the Academy of Children's Theatre production of The Miracle Worker.

The experience has been as memorable as it has been humbling, she said.

"This show taught me a lot about appreciating what I can see and hear and to be thankful for what I have," the 18-year-old Parsons said. "It also taught me a lot about helping others and that caring for those around you will make you a better person and less selfish."

The Miracle Worker follows the saga of young Helen Keller and the woman, Annie Sullivan, who found a way to penetrate her silent world and teach her how to communicate.

Hannah Fewel, 13, plays Helen.

Director Julie Schroeder said there were many challenges in taking her actors through a serious drama like The Miracle Worker.

"One of the biggest challenges of this show was to get the cast to understand being sensory deprived," Schroeder said. "So we had what we called 'blind work'. Helen, as well as the girls who attend the school for the blind, were required to work blindfolded for the first four weeks of rehearsal."

Fewel also had to wear earplugs because Keller was not only blind, she was also deaf and mute, and that presented her biggest challenge.

"I watched Patty Duke (play Keller in the film version) and tried to be like her, but also make the character my own," Fewel said. "The most difficult thing I had to overcome was not being able to react to the dialogue on stage. As an actor, we react to each other, but I was unable to do that playing Helen, so I had to really focus.

"It was 100 percent my hardest role yet. Helen is a very intense character. I hope I portray her well to the audience."

Another challenge for Parsons and Fewel was learning sign language, and Parsons also dyed her hair for her role.

"We have an amazing director who helped us with everything, and I'm honored to be playing Annie and being a part of this show," Parsons said. "I got to learn sign language. I even dyed my hair red. It really got me into character and made me feel and be Annie."

Schroeder couldn't be more proud of her actors and the accomplishments they've conquered in their roles.

"We had many discussions about raising a child with special needs during an era when it was common to put those children in an institution," Schroeder said. "So much of my inspiration was drawn from my sister Jan, who is a sign language interpreter."

The show runs Jan. 11-12 and 18-19 at the ACT theater, 213 Wellsian Way in Richland. Curtain time is 7 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees Jan. 12 and 19. Tickets cost $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and $7 for kids 5 and younger. Tickets are available at www.academyofchildrenstheatre.org.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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