Witness a ‘Miracle’ at SCHS

Students bring story of Helen Keller to life
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Annie Sullivan, played by Alana Krolow, left, struggles to teach Helen Keller, played by Emma Etten, in a scene from “The Miracle Worker.” The show opens Thursday at the auditorium at Shawano Community High School.

Most of the students at Shawano Community High School are fortunate enough to have eyes to see, ears to hear and the gift of their own voice.

That didn’t stop some students from diving into the amazing story of Helen Keller as they bring “The Miracle Worker” to life this week.

The play follows along the lines of Keller’s autobiography, “The Story of My Life.” As an infant, she suffered an illness that left her both blind and deaf, and she became mute as a result of losing two of her senses. Keller’s parents took pity on her and never taught her discipline, resulting in her becoming a wild child by the age of 6.

The Keller family hired Annie Sullivan to be Helen’s governess and teacher but were surprised by Sullivan’s no-nonsense methods. Having once been blind herself, she saw the potential in unlocking the box that Keller had been trapped in and turning her into a functioning member of society.

To reach Keller, Sullivan used persistence and discipline, teaching her language through hand signals. It took two weeks of the pair being left alone without any interference from the rest of the family, but the end result changed everyone’s lives forever.

Madeline Stuewer is in the director’s chair solo after co-directing last year’s spring play with SCHS theater alum Addison Lewis. Stuewer said she chose “The Miracle Worker” because of her interest in Keller’s life.

“I was always interested in the story of Helen Keller,” Stuewer said. “I think it has a great message about how to treat people with disabilities or people who are different from you.”

Stuewer added the play highlights the importance of patience when dealing with others, as well as the value of teachers.

“When I read the script, I really liked it, and I could see Shawano doing it,” Stuewer said.

The play is not as dependent on dialogue as other shows. Stuewer noted that it requires a lot of emotion, particularly for the roles of Keller and Sullivan, as it requires a lot of physical performance.

“Emma Etten, who plays Helen, does a lot of rolling around and kicking and screaming, and it’s very emotional,” Stuewer said. “She’s like a dancer choreographed.”

Stuewer said that she watched many versions of the show, both the film adaptations and the theatrical versions, the latter she viewed via YouTube.

“I did a lot of research on Helen Keller’s life, who she was as a person, and I read some of her work,” Stuewer said. “She was very literate and a political activist, which I found interesting. She’s a very inspiring person.”