“The Miracle Worker” holds a special place in many theatergoers’ hearts because of the incredible story it tells and its inspirational message of the power of persistence.
The play by William Gibson, based on Helen Keller’s autobiography, “The Story of My Life,” tells how teacher Anne Sullivan broke through to Keller, deaf and blind because of a childhood illness, when it seemed like no one else could.
For many in the Inland Northwest, “The Miracle Worker” is also beloved because actress Patty Duke, who starred in the play when it opened on Broadway and won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role in the film of the same name, called Coeur d’Alene home until her death last year.
In 2011, Duke directed a production of “The Miracle Worker” at Interplayers Theatre, which closed last year as the Modern Theatre Spokane.
It was for these reasons that director Brooke Wood and the rest of the Lake City Playhouse team decided to produce “The Miracle Worker,” which opens Friday.
In the Lake City production, Quinn Troye will portray Keller, and Marta Myers will play Sullivan, who was played by Anne Bancroft in the Broadway play and film.
The cast also includes Eric Fuhriman (Captain Arthur Keller), Monica Thomas (Kate Keller), Caid Wood (James Keller), Jessica Peterson (Viney), Kari Gilge (Aunt Ev), Olivier Moratin (Anagnos/nightmare), Bill Inmann (doctor/nightmare), AJ Schaefer (Northern Doc/nightmare), Mihret Washington (Martha), Rylan Dixon (Percy), Blake Henry (student), Cole Henry (student/Annie’s brother) and Alissa Fuhriman (student).
There was an open casting call for “The Miracle Worker,” and Wood also posted an audition notice at Sorensen Elementary School, where she teaches, which is how Troye become involved in the production.
“She had done research on the role, and she was ready to go,” Wood said of Troye’s audition. “She’s been amazing.”
Myers is no stranger to Lake City Playhouse, having played Beth in “Little Women”; Wood has directed her in other productions.
“She came in and it was a ‘There she is’ kind of moment,” Wood said of Myers’ audition. “She’s very, very, very good in the role. You can’t take your eyes off of her.”
In the last week of rehearsals, Wood has enjoyed watching the cast, 70 percent of which has never before performed on the Lake City stage, really come into their characters and bond.
“A lot of time in theater, you do shows with the same people over and over so you walk in and it’s like going back to school right after summer,” she said. “This group, a lot of them have never even known each other so it’s really nice to watch them come together.”
Wood notes that Eric Fuhriman, in his second ever production, and Thomas, a Lake City veteran and “consummate professional,” playing Keller’s parents, have developed a strong connection, and that the cast as a whole makes working on “The Miracle Worker” more fun than such a serious play should warrant.
“It’s a really kind cast,” Wood said. “They really have stepped up and have been helpful with each other.”
Under Wood’s direction, “The Miracle Worker” will have a black box feel with sparse furniture in order to make sure the actors and the story stand out.
It’s this story, and Keller herself, that Wood said keeps audiences coming back to “The Miracle Worker.”
“The story truly is about perseverance and love and the idea that if we just work hard and continue to try and love the people that we’re with, amazing things can happen …” she said.
“Helen Keller was such an amazing woman and the things that she had to say about life, all that was bottled up in a little human. It blows people’s minds that as soon as she could talk, the things that came out were just breathtaking.”
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