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A miracle on stage

Staff Reports

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen KellerMichael Murphy’s brother is blind and mentally handicapped, so he knows what it means to deal with disabilities on a day-to-day basis.Now, as the director of a play about the early life of Helen Keller, Murphy has found an artistic format to approach the frustrating and complicated issues of disability.”When we go to the theater,” he says, “we take for granted the sights and the sounds. Imagine if you didn’t know what something was and tried to express it.”This is what Keller struggles with in The Miracle Worker, a Montana Repertory Theater production showing at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek.When Murphy was first handed the script, he thought, “Why is this story unique? Doesn’t everybody know the Helen Keller story?” But his individual reasons for taking it on including his questions about his brother – drove him to direct the play as never before, incorporating an intricate set, unusual sounds, and a cast that truly acts from the heart.A family of actorsOn stage the Keller family exudes a built-in sense of care and love that you can’t teach or direct. This is because the real-life Watson family plays the Kellers.Jordan Watson, 12, plays Keller, Bill Watson plays Keller’s father, and Nancy Watson plays Keller’s mother.”If you think you know The Miracle Worker, you’ll be surprised and pleased by the way we look at it. It honors the traditional story, but brings a new sensibility to it,” says Murphy.Personal incentive has driven Murphy to give the audience a new experience of the well-known story. When it was first produced on stage, the set was heavy, realistic, and plain. In order to create a different impression, Murphy worked with the set and sound designers to construct an unrealistic and varied set that rotates 360 degrees.These different looks help represent characters’ emotions and struggles throughout the play. As the characters and the struggles change, the set changes with them. At the beginning of the play, for example, the Keller family is disjointed and the set reflects that by incorporating divided rooms and features.The sound is another important aspect to the production.”The sounds deal with sounds we take for granted, like wind blowing through a wind chime,” Murphy says. “We know what that sounds like, but if we couldn’t, we would never know it existed. So there’s a very intricate sound plot that involves sounds we take for granted.”Another unique aspect of the production is the signers who are included and involved with the actions. They shadow the actors while speaking in sign language in order make the play accessible to the deaf community.Tickets for the dramatization of the young life of Helen Keller are $20 for children and $35 for adults. There will also be reception and discussion, to add a more educational element to the play, preceding the show at 6:30 p.m. in the May Gallery Patron’s Lounge.qCall (970) 845-TIXS for tickets or more information.


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