For director Gail Humphries-Mardirosian, the classic play "The Miracle Worker" at Okoboji Summer Theatre is not about miracles but about awakenings.
"Annie Sullivan had all the right instincts to help an intelligent but blind and deaf girl to come out of the dark shell she lived in and integrate her into society," she said.
Mardirosian feels the two main characters of the play, Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller share equal importance.
"The power of the teacher is very evident but so is the intelligence and yearning to learn in Helen," she continued. "In later years, Helen made references to seeing the light but never actually witnessing it."
Donna Salamoff and Lisa Agogliati are renowned deaf inclusion educators from Washington, D.C. Thanks to a Humanities Iowa grant, they were able to come to OST and assist the director. They worked with the cast on sign language and navigational skills to ensure authenticity.
At the opening performance on July 10, Agogliati and local American Sign Language presenter Richard Miske were scheduled to sign/interpret the entire show.
The director has been working with a cast of 16 humans and one dog. Six are Stephens College theatre arts students, three are professional actors, seven are local youngsters and the dog is Emily Jepson's beloved Ruby.
Sicily Mathenia is portraying Annie Sulllivan. She finds the role to be challenging on several levels.
"There is the Irish brogue, of course, and Annie is a complex, emotionl woman," Mathenia said. "I feel the pressure of playing such a historical character; I want to honor who she was."
Veteran actor Rob Doyen plays Helen's father, Captain Keller. He loves doing this play.
"It teaches us to respect people with challenges and disabilities," he said. "I hope the audience leaves with a better understanding about patience, love and very importantly respect. We need to learn how to include these people in everything we do, accept them as part of the human family."
The local youngsters appearing are: Kiana and Olivia Leistikow, Declan Donovan, Piper Marx, Libby Leinbaugh, Quinn Masek and Sean Nelsen. In addition to gaining acting experience they have been taught sign language, a skill they were eager to learn.
"Donna and Lisa could not get here for the first week of rehearsals so they taught us all via video chat," said Mardirosian said.
The teacher and the student plus family and friends work their way through trials and tribulations with gratifying results. Mardirosian chose to add a short prologue to the original script to bring the audience up to date.
"I wanted them to see Helen as an adult and all that she accomplished," said Mardirosian.
"The Miracle Worker" runs Tuesday through Saturday nights at 8 p.m. There is also a matinee Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and the final performance is Sunday night at 6 o'clock.
The show is sponsored by Tom and Jean Willey, the OST Association, and Humanities Iowa.
For tickets contact the OST box office at 712-332-7773 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.