Tuscarora High School
Patience, they say, is a virtue. With this definition, no one could be more virtuous than the ever-patient Annie Sullivan. The Miracle Worker, performed with great heart by the students of Dominion High School, captures this remarkable woman's spirit and shows what determination can truly accomplish.
The Miracle Worker, written in 1959 by William Gibson and based on Annie Sullivan's autobiography, follows the story of a young teacher and her progress with a unique student, Helen Keller. Helen, who is both blind and deaf, has no way to communicate or understand the world around her. Annie Sullivan is hired to teach Helen, to pull her out of isolation, and to provide her tools with which she can build herself a normal life. The story is ripe with emotion, thought, and struggle as the two young women learn from each other and grow to have a greater understanding of the world.
A key aspect of Annie's journey is that she never wishes to change Helen, only to provide her a way to communicate. Noelle Hunter beautifully conveyed this concept. In a striking monologue, Annie begs Helen to understand her so Annie can teach her about the world. The expression in Hunter's voice and the desperation in her face cut directly to the audience's core. Noelle Hunter's commitment, facial expressions, and delivery consistently created both comedic and touching moments.
These moments were also supported by the strong connection built between Annie and Saskia Hunter's Helen. The two actresses created a dynamic that grew as the show progressed and culminated in a tear-jerking finale. Saskia Hunter perfectly captured the personality and expressions of her character without a word of dialogue. Between her accurate fingerspelling and her consistent "stimming", it was clear this actress had done her research. This attention to detail made the character realistic and caused the climactic finale to be all the more powerful.
The entire cast committed wholeheartedly to their characters and also paid attention to the smallest of details. These details, such as the adoption of southern and Irish accents, enhanced the audience's experience. The supporting characters had distinct personalities, many of which contradicted their scene partners. This was clear with the classic Southern poise and charm of Rebecca Williamson's Kate Keller. Contrasted with the gruff sternness of her husband (Josh Noah), the two played the perfect foil couple. Another standout performance was Josh Thomas as James Keller. His dry wit and well-delivered sarcasm had the audience rolling in their seats on more than one occasion.
The show's technical elements strengthened the performance, from a beautiful and sturdy permanent set to creative sound design. The few set changes were smooth and quick, the lovely sunset of lights reflected beautifully onto the cyclorama, and real food and water were used on the plates and in the Keller's famous water pump. The actors interacted with the props and set, sometimes in violent ways, but the stage held strong under the abuse. Though there was the occasional mishap, the actors reacted to these mistakes in character and to the great amusement of the audience. Set, props, and actors worked in tandem to elevate every scene.
Annie Sullivan showed that success is not brought about by miracles, but through hard work, determination, and perseverance. Dominion High School took this message to heart and, through some hard work of their own, produced an excellent show.
Woodgrove High School
While ‘The Miracle Worker' questions the difference between love and pity, audience members of Dominion High School's production walked out feeling nothing but love! Based on Helen Keller's biography and a series of ‘teleplays' by the same name, the heartfelt piece exemplifies what it means to teach and be taught, sometimes at the same time. The piece covers the transition of Annie Sullivan (Noelle Hunter) as she struggles to teach a blind and deaf "wild child" (Saskia Hunter) how to understand the world around her. Dominion embraced the heavy implications of such a script with an attentive hand, and the results made everyone in attendance laugh, cry, and reflect.
From the opening scene to curtain call, consistency was key in this group. Both acting and tech were clean-cut and purposeful, with a clear nod to director and assistant directors, Amy Young and Patricia Kellcher, and stage managers Emily Caudill and Wyrick McCabe. The actors had in-depth understandings of their characters and were quick to communicate genuine connections with the people on stage with them. The tech categories all exhibited careful attention to symbolism and detail that made the show visually interesting and easy to follow. Additionally, though the set was very large, spanning across the entire stage most times, the blocking and execution used their space efficiently without making unnecessary or forced moves.
Noelle Hunter gave a beautiful performance as the quick-witted and headstrong Annie Sullivan. Her portrayal was one of nuance and expertise, professionally navigating her difficult role with all the grace required. She switched with ease between spurring witticisms, dramatic flashbacks and, at times, quick thinking improvisations, indicating a degree of comfort on the stage most don't achieve at home in bed! Playing opposite her, Saskia Hunter was engaging and detailed in her performance as Helen Keller. Comfortable on stage and with her fellow actors, Hunter developed into a well thought out portrayal of a very difficult character. She managed to show audience members the different sides of Helen, from the clinging child to the mischievous prankster, giving us the gray area she is meant to have. Both showed a committed and engaging performance, from Helen's stimming to Annie's quiet and selfless desperation.
The Hunters were supported by a dynamic and thoughtful cast. Rebecca Williamson was protective and motherly, but showed a quietly stubborn side; a determination that is not easily willed away. Josh Noah's ‘James Keller' was perfectly sarcastic and biting as he provided a degree of stability in his character's brutal honesty. Ray Rodriguez dealt with his character's comedic purpose with eagerness, keeping his performance clean while committing to the physical comedy that the show requires.
One word described the tech categories: detail. The sets were beautifully rich with abundant dimension in height, color, and texture, notably the working water pump. The set changes were fast and efficient, speaking toward a watchful hand or two. Set changes did not slow down or interrupt the show, and the set pieces moved quickly into place without fuss. While there were some inconsistencies in lighting execution, the lighting plot was beautifully symbolic, from the harsh ‘Alabama' lighting to the rapturous white-speckled blues. The props fit into scenes perfectly and the actors could use them with ease and comfort. While there were some difficult fight scenes, the actors could pull them off without a hitch.
Overall, Dominion High School created a truly beautiful and moving piece about love and trust, and overcoming difficulties. A moving experience for all audience members, the cast of ‘The Miracle Worker' should be proud of their apparent hard work.