We Are Miracle Workers

Not only did blind tutor, Anne Sullivan, work miracles but our community and Hickman does too.

Shakira Cross

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“Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people,” activist Helen Keller once said. An American author, political activist, and lecturer, Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor arts degree and had a difficult life of her own before all of these successes. It took miraculous skill and energy to cultivate the darkness and silence inside of her and bring light and sound to it. Hickman’s theatre department is getting ready to show students that we shouldn’t let blindness separate us from objects unseen and deafness separate us from each other because “it’s a terrible thing to see, but have no vision.”

The Miracle Worker is a dramatic play derived from Helen Keller’s autobiography The Story of Life. This play vividly describes the relationship between Keller, a deaf-blind child who spent years unable to communicate leaving her to feel frustrated and violent, and Anne Sullivan, a half-blind teacher who is able to teach her about education and activism. Keller is initially resistant, but forms a bond with Sullivan in a way that shows her that “the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched — they must be felt with the heart.”

“There are a lot of factors at play when choosing the types of shows we will do. We always looks at the season as a whole–we want there to be a lot of variety,” theatre teacher Sarah Gerling said.

Throughout the years of Hickman’s productions such as Peter and the Starcatcher, Almost Maine, and Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, in plays like the audience sees the captivating lights, bright colored costumes and imagination but for this play, we see something different.

“There are obvious differences between The Miracle Worker and Shrek, for example. We also want to have a range of theatrical works that any given HHS student would experience during their time in high school. In regards to this show specifically, I wanted to do it because it is inspiring and beautiful,” Gerling said. “I love that it showcases several really dynamic female characters.”

Gerling is also making sure that the cast understands the importance and significance the play gives. “As theatre artist, we always need to do research about the world of the play, but this time all of the characters and situations are based in true people and events,” Gerling said.

“The Miracle Worker is based on historical events without it being purely a fictional story,” theatre student Adrian Ruppar said.

This play is the first in the last few years that shows the importance of language and the challenges of teaching children with disabilities.

One may a view or label a deaf or blind person as “disabled or handicapped,” not realizing that those words are disabling and handicapping their own thinking. It is easy to place someone who doesn’t look like the “norm” or someone who is physically impaired as inferior to what is ordinary. It is easy to criticize and look down upon people, situations, and circumstances that people don’t know or don’t want to understand.

In the past five years at Hickman, only one blind student attended the special education program. In accommodation to this student, the district invited a professional to work with the student to transfer the teachings into braille to allow the student to interact with the lecture and the other students. Although the blind-deaf community is a very big concern in today’s world, other communities are very important too. The Miracle Worker, while centered around the deaf-blind majority, is also a great representation of students who live with autism, Asperger’s, and Down syndrome.

At Hickman, the special education teachers find many ways to engage their students with the other students of the school: between various P.E classes, senior mentoring done by the seniors of Hickman, and allowing the students to have buddies within the school. Allowing the students to be involved in the regular life at Hickman has really made an impact in their life, boosting their confidence and enabling them to become close to other students that they otherwise might never meet.

“The Miracle Worker is inspiring” are the last words Gerling said about the play. The hope that Hickman takes away the spirit and the grit of overcoming obstacles that seem impossible all while understanding and showing empathy towards our fellow peers who have disabilities. In understanding that “kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see” will perform miracles that will work for all human beings.