By Sally Mayne
In 1887 Tuscumbia, Alabama, while our country was still recovering from the tragedies of the Civil war, the Keller family was coming to grips with its own private family tragedy. This backdrop set the stage for a memorable and riveting performance by VHS student actors in mid-November.
The inspiring story of blind and deaf Helen Keller and her incredible teacher, young Anne (Annie) Sullivan, portrayed the volatile relationship early on between the determined and strong-willed teacher and Helen, trapped for years in a secret, silent world, unable to communicate.
The production’s director, Melissa Sparks, stated, “I really appreciated the opportunity to present this inspiring true story of two women: one who overcame extraordinary adversity to achieve remarkable accomplishments during her life and the other a special teacher who had the spirit and dedication to find a way to unlock the intelligence and passion trapped deep inside her student’s world.”
The story also described the impact of Helen’s disability on her whole family and how it highlighted their desperate efforts to help her. Their desperation ultimately led them to put their trust into Annie’s nontraditional teaching methods, as Annie convinced them there was a bright mind and spirit just waiting to be rescued from the dark, tortured silence.
Playing Helen was VHS freshman Lindsay Fleck. When asked what challenges she faced in portraying Helen, Fleck replied that “it was important for me to train myself NOT to react to any of the sounds or sights happening on stage and imagine what it would be like to have been both deaf and blind.” Fleck also noted, “this was a much more serious role than others I’ve had and so I had to tap into my emotions more, but I feel honored to have had the opportunity to take on the role of Helen.”
Marisa Miller, who is a junior at VHS, played the character of Annie Sullivan so flawlessly, one watching the show may have felt as though the real Annie was on the stage in front of them. She displayed the same spirited passion this amazing teacher shared with the world. Miller is a member of the International Thespian Society and explained that, “by truly immersing myself in the character, I found I could experience the emotions the real Annie must have felt and I think it helped me really bring her character to life on the stage.”