Just about everyone knows of Helen Keller, the poet and activist who was both blind and deaf from a young age.
THrough Feb 10, audiences will get a glimpse inside the famous woman’s life as a young child when “The Miracle Worker,” a play by William Gibson, opens at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.
The play follows Anne Sullivan, a young woman hired by the Kellers to teach Helen, who has no way to communicate with those around her.
Taking on the role of this miracle worker is 18-year-old Hope Hiester.
Q: Can you tell me a little about your character and the show?
A: Annie Sullivan is 20 and she has previously lived in an orphanage up to this point and at a school for blind people. And then she gets hired as a last-ditch attempt for Helen Keller to be taught. And the rest of the play is from the moment she steps off the train to the miracle that happens.
It’s just really really good for anyone who can value perseverance because this whole play is about not only the struggles that Helen is going through but also Annie.
Q: What is it like portraying a real person and telling a real story?
A: I think it makes it even better because it is such a heartwarming story and it is such an incredible story. … Playing Annie Sullivan is like playing any other character.
I did a lot of research after I got the part about her actions and actually how her temperament was as far as with Helen Keller goes and read some of her accounts of working with Helen Keller, which needless to say, she did not make it easy for Annie.
But it’s definitely interesting, and I definitely enjoy her and have so much respect for her and where she came from just this terrible childhood and this terrible situation and just never let it stop her.
Q: Did you run into any challenges with the show?
A: There’s a lot of physical fighting, and so that is definitely challenging, making sure that when we’re doing stage fighting we have to make sure that we get it on time and we get it to where everyone’s still safe but it still looks realistic and so that’s definitely a challenge.
I think another challenge is finding ... there are some real-life heavy things in the play, so I think that’s also a challenge is trying to put yourself in the situation that she is and trying to find inspiration for some of the scenes.
Q: Is this different from other work you’ve done?
A: This is actually my first straight play. I normally do musicals. I’ve been in things like “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Shrek,” things like that that are ... definitely have their moments but overall are more comedies or more, you know, fairy tales. This definitely doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of real life, which I have a lot of respect for.
Q: What’s your favorite part of doing this show?
A: I think, honestly that the whole experience has just helped me grow as an actor because when I’m working with people that have been acting as long as I’ve been alive you get that experience where I been acting for a couple years.
And these people have been acting so they know it better than I do and so that’s been a great experience. The whole cast is really a big family. That’s kind of a cliché, but there are just 14 ... people in the cast.
Everyone knows each other’s names (and) were all super supportive of each other and we are super supportive of growing your character. It’s just a really good experience overall.
“The Miracle Worker” plays this weekend and next weekend, Friday through Sunday, at Jonesborough Repertory Theatre. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit jonesboroughtheatre.org.