NCHS upperclassmen use all their senses for ‘The Miracle Worker’
NEW CANAAN — New Canaan High School senior Kaitlyn Piotroski knows what it’s like to not being able to communicate with young children. The 17-year-old said she’s had experiences babysitting younger cousins where there was a communication gap that couldn’t be bridged.
“I realize they can’t understand me and I can’t understand them,” she said. “It’s finding a way around that.”
Piotroski is channeling those feelings into her role as Aunt Ev in New Canaan High School’s production of “The Miracle Worker.”
Starring all upperclassmen, the show is based off Helen Keller’s autobiography and follows her journey with her teacher, Annie Sullivan.
Helen Keller was rendered deaf, blind and mute from illness as a baby and quickly became a wild child due to her parents’ inability to communicate with her. Desperate to get through to their 6-year-old, the Kellers hired Annie Sullivan who insisted on living alone with her student to teach her to communicate through hand signals, as well as how to become more patient.
The range of the emotions the characters experience is a lot for any person but are particularly tricky for high school actors to portray.
See the show
“The Miracle Worker” will run at the New Canaan High School Theatre Oct. 19 and 20 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Seating is onstage and limited. Tickets are $17. For more information and to buy tickets, visit newcanaanhighschooltheatre.com.
CAST in order of appearance
Doctor: Wyatt Lysenko
Kate Keller: Grace Rucci
Capt. Keller: Will Dooley
Helen Keller: Claire Leville
Martha: Lucy Coutts
Percy: Luke Pelli
Aunt Ev: Kaitlyn Piotroski
James Keller: Jack Dunn
Prof. Anagnos: Daniel Assi
Annie Sullivan: Sadie Seelert
Viney: Niki Orndahl
Blind School girls: Kate Murphy, Layla Riddle, Kara Simko, Alexis Smith, Lauren Smith and Sarah Young
“There’s been challenges,” said junior Erin Spiess, the production stage manager. “It’s a very emotionally in-depth show. The students are trying to find in-depth emotions. They have to find that space.”
Spiess, 17, who’s in charge of serving as a sort of liaison between the cast and director, said the cast participated in exercises to learn how to rely on their other senses, much like Helen Keller had to do. One of their warm-ups includes walking around in the dark to enhance their other senses. Claire Leville, the senior playing Helen Keller, even spent some rehearsals blindfolded.
One of the challenges for William Dooley, 18, who plays Captain Keller, is balancing his role as a father who is both caring and frustrated with his family situation.
“It’s been a challenge,” the high school senior said. “I’m still trying to figure him out...He’s the antagonist for the majority of the show and in Act II he realizes (hiring Annie Sullivan) is the best decision for him.”
With a little over a week until the show, Dee Alexander, the high school’s drama coordinator, said the students are getting close to mastering the complex emotions the show requires.
“We haven’t done a play of this magnitude in a very long time where the kids explore a character from beginning to end,” she said. “It’s an intimate, well-known piece. It’s time for them to rise to the challenge. It’s been a journey. It’s a process because they haven’t done anything like it.”