Being involved in theater, or seeing theater regularly, are both are recipes for adventure. What unfolds on stage can be sentimental, surprising, wonderful, wild or weird but usually thought-provoking. Nothing compares with theater in allowing us to see the human experience from every angle, as Molly Page, artistic director of Foothills Stage Company at Oxford Performing Arts Center, told me.
Two upcoming productions by Theatre of Gadsden at the Ritz Theatre come up to that standard, while Bill Acker’s talk at the Calhoun County Historical Society provides the less-serious human perspective of an Annistonian growing up in our town. We can learn something new from all three events.
‘The Miracle Worker’ in Gadsden
Humans can experience hardships of the most heart-wrenching kind. But in “The Miracle Worker,” presented by Theatre of Gadsden Sept. 11-22, the ending, finally, is happy and the play inspiring.
The drama about Alabama’s Helen Keller, set in 1887, is directed by Ann Sharpe. Performances Sept. 11-22 will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The play is written by William Gibson.
Each character has his or her own story to tell, while the production team sets the stage or gives direction to the actors.
Actors from Calhoun County include:
• David and Charlie Bennett of Saks (playing children from the Perkins Institute for the Blind).
• Krista Bischoff, a graduate of Jacksonville State University, playing Mrs. Keller.
• Kim Dobbs of Anniston, playing Aunt Ev.
• Paige Hancock, a JSU student, playing Annie Sullivan.
• Fifth grader Ava Claire Campbell of Gadsden, playing Helen Keller.
The production team includes:
• Ann Sharpe, a JSU graduate, director.
• Ali Bankson, a JSU graduate, assistant stage manager.
• Angie Campbell, a JSU graduate, assistant to cast.
According to Bischoff, who is also the dramaturg for the production, Helen Keller was a beautiful little girl. Her parents were devastated when they realized she was blind and deaf. “They took her to specialists all over the Southeast,” Bischoff said. “But most of them said Helen had no potential to communicate. And the Kellers didn’t want to send her to an asylum.”
That’s where Aunt Ev comes in. Aunt Ev comes for visits at the Kellers’ home, Ivy Green, and sees Helen, but can’t accept what’s going on with the child. She pushes the Kellers to search further for an oculist in Baltimore who can help. “And if he can’t help, maybe he knows who can,” she insists.
Then, Annie Sullivan is selected to come to Ivy Green to be Helen’s teacher and companion.
Annie Sullivan’s success with Helen can be considered incredible if you know the teacher’s background, Bischoff added. “She had never been to school before she was 13. Her parents were Irish immigrants; her mother was in poor health and later died. Her father later abandoned the family.”
Sullivan was put in an orphanage, according to Bischoff. “Yet she never lost her strong drive to learn.” After finding a way to study at the Perkins Institute for the Blind, she graduated as valedictorian of her class.
This is a play that shares many lessons and always presents a challenge, along with encouragement to meet the challenge.
Tickets are $17 for adults and $15 for students, seniors and military. For reservations, call 256-547-7469.
Auditions for ‘Quilters’ in Gadsden
Theatre of Gadsden’s upcoming production of “Quilters,” directed by Mike Beecham, will be Nov. 15-24. Auditions are Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Ritz Theatre, 310 Wall St. in Gadsden. It is an all-female cast.
The story of a pioneer woman and her six daughters, “Quilters” blends a series of interrelated scenes into a rich fabric that captures the realities of frontier life.
Illuminating stories are contained in various patches or “blocks” with music, dance and drama. The action depicts the lot of women on the frontier: girlhood, marriage, childbirth, spinsterhood, twisters, fire, illness and death. But love, warmth, rich humor and simple human dignity exist in their lives, too.
In the end, the effect is one that emphasizes courage and persistence against the odds as qualities that must be called upon to sustain lives during hardships.
A song will be taught to be delivered at auditions. Then those trying out will read from the script.
Bill Acker at Calhoun County Historical Society
The Sept. 10 meeting of the Calhoun County Historical Society features Bill Acker as speaker on “Growing up in Anniston, 1940 to 1970, Part 2.”
The years he will cover includes those leading up to his lifetime in our town, and continuing with the places and people that made history in his life.
Refreshments are served at 5 p.m. and the meeting begins at 5:20 p.m. The society meets in the Ayers Room of the library. Everyone is invited.
Acker attended Mrs. Andrews’ Kindergarten, Woodstock School and Johnston Junior High. He is a graduate of The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, with post-graduate studies at the University of Alabama and London Business School in England.
His volunteer work locally has included serving as a board member of the Anniston Community Theatre.
Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.