April 2007

It's a 'Miracle' With Something More

Quincy Patriot-Ledger

QUINCY – When the actors in Eastern Nazarene College’s theater department take the stage tomorrow night to perform William Gibson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, ‘‘The Miracle Worker,’’ they will be joined by some new faces: American Sign Language interpreters.

‘‘It’s our first experience with this kind of performance,’’ said producing artistic director Eunice Ferreira. ‘‘We’re very excited about it.’’

‘‘The Miracle Worker’’ tells the story of Helen Keller, the blind and deaf girl who, with the help of her tutor, Anne Sullivan, learned how to communicate with the world around her through touch. Ferreira said she thought the play provided a perfect opportunity to introduce American Sign Language into the theater, something she said she has long wanted to do.

She said interest in the play has spawned a new way of communicating on the Eastern Nazarene campus: TTY technology. TTY is short for teletypewriter, a device that allows deaf people to communicate by telephone.

She also said the college is considering making sign language an option for students seeking to meet their language requirement.

‘‘The Miracle Worker’’ will be performed tonight, tomorrow and Saturday, but American Sign Language interpretation will only be offered at tomorrow night’s show. Jacqueline Crosby and Crista Lambert, both recent graduates of local colleges, will be not only interpreting but performing.

‘‘As interpreters, it’s our job to not just convey the words spoken but also the tone and manner of speech,’’ Lambert said. ‘‘It helps give the viewer the complete theater-going experience.’’

The two women work within a team of five. Their two mentors, Christopher Robinson and Aimee Schiffman, both professional interpreters, recommended them for the job.

‘‘When Chris suggested two recent graduates do the interpreting, I realized it would be a wonderful learning experience for both the interpreters and the actors,’’ Ferreira said. Crosby has been a theater performer once before; this will be Lambert’s first time.

The fifth member of the team is Shira Grabelsky, a deaf woman who acts as an American Sign Language consultant.

‘‘Shira watched us rehearse and then assigned us voices based on our personality,’’ Crosby said. ‘‘So, for example, every time Helen speaks, I interpret her. Crista is always Helen’s father, Captain Keller. The rest of the time we split the parts, acting out the show for the deaf viewers in the audience.’’

‘‘They’ve been amazing,’’ Ferreira said. ‘‘I’d love to do this every year.’’

The show is directed by award-winning local actress and director Jacqui Parker. She and Ferreira have worked together in the past. The two women say they chose ‘‘The Miracle Worker’’ because they wanted to challenge their students – and their audiences – with a powerful, thought-provoking piece.

They considered ‘‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’’ They wanted ‘‘12 Angry Men’’ but couldn’t get the rights.

‘‘The whole time, my mind kept coming back to ‘Miracle Worker,’’’ Parker said. ‘‘It didn’t fit the social-change theme of the others, but I guess we were just drawn to it.’’

Ferreira said they were also focused on realism as this spring’s theme. After a lavish musical in the fall and a new-age production in the winter, Ferreira wanted to make sure that her students got a well-rounded theater education.

Parker said she wants the people in the audience to ‘‘step out of their comfort zones after watching this play. Watch the struggle these two women go through, and don’t be afraid to step outside of your own life and do the uncomfortable. You just might make a change, a miracle of your own.’’

Opening tonight

What: Eastern Nazarene College’s production of “The Miracle Worker.”
Where: Cove Fine Arts Center, 23 East Elm Ave., Quincy.
When: Tonight through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tomorrow’s show will have sign language interpreters.
Cost: Tickets cost $10; available at the school’s box office.