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Monday, December 24, 2012

Pennington Players' 'The Miracle Worker' next at Kelsey Theatre

Isabel Kinney as Helen and Jennifer Nasta Zefutie as Annie


The Pennington Players bring William Gibson’s play The Miracle Worker to the Kelsey Theatre stage. The story of The Miracle Worker is one of the most inspiring of our times, relating the triumph of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller over seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays, February 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 8 p.m.; and Sundays, February 3 and 10 at 2 p.m. Kelsey Theatre is located on the college’s West Windsor campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road.

In keeping with the theme and subject matter of the play, the Pennington Players are offering the audience the experience of an ASL interpreted performance for the deaf, hard of hearing and ASL community at the 8pm performance on Saturday, February 9, 2013. At the American Sign Language interpreted performance, two professional ASL interpreters will use their skills to convey the live theatrical performance. Select seating is available for those who wish to be closest to the ASL interpreters; interested patrons must request to be ticketed in these designated seats. The performance is open to everyone for the same price as the other performances.

The performance will be interpreted by Allwynn Baskin and Lisette Weiland and will be done in conjunction with the actual performance provided by the cast. American Sign Language (ASL) is used for interpreting the performing arts for deaf or hearing-impaired audiences. Two interpreters will located on a corner of the stage will translate the dialogue into American Sign Language. ASL is a visual-gestural language used by many deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States and Canada. It is a complete language with its own grammar and syntax. It is not merely pantomime nor is it English using the hands. It is not universal. 

In 1880s Tuscumbia, Alabama, an illness renders 19 month old Helen Keller blind, deaf, and consequently mute (deaf-mute). Pitied and badly spoiled by her parents, she learns no discipline and grows into a wild, raging creature by the age of six. Desperate, the Kellers hire Anne Sullivan to serve as a governess and teacher for their young daughter. After several fierce battles with Helen, Anne convinces her parents she needs two weeks alone with her if she is to achieve any progress in her education. In that time, she teaches her discipline and language through the use of the manual alphabet, and finally a breakthrough that has a direct effect on everyone's life and the way they live it.

The play centers on the relationship between young Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan, who, through perseverance and guile, reaches into Helen's world and brings her the gift of language: sign language. "This play is a journey from darkness to light on many levels, and not just for Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, but also for the entire cast and the audience," says Judi Parrish, director of the production.

Originally a teleplay written by William Gibson, The Miracle Worker premiered on Broadway in 1959, starring Patty Duke as the irascible Helen Keller, and Anne Bancroft as the unyielding Annie Sullivan. The play was then adapted into the famous feature-length film, in which Duke and Bancroft reprised their roles. 

The leading role of Annie Sullivan will be played by Jennifer Nasta Zefutie, of Cranbury, with 11 year old Isabel Kinney of Cranbury playing the role of Helen. Both actresses are making their Kelsey Theatre debuts. They have spent numerous hours learning the American Sign Language Manual Alphabet and working through the several physically challenging scenes between Helen and Annie. 

In another connection to the subject matter, Isabel Kinney (Helen) is an official puppy raiser for the Seeing Eye. On November 23rd, she received her first puppy, a black lab named ALu. Until a Seeing Eye dog is ready for training, it spends its time with a "foster family", a family that gives the dog love, gentle guidance, and consistent care. Isabel and her family are happily undertaking their first puppy training. When it’s time for the puppy to begin formal training, the dog returns to The Seeing Eye to learn to assist a blind person in leading a more independent, fulfilling life. The Seeing Eye, Inc. is the oldest existing guide dog school in the world. Since 1929, The Seeing Eye has partnered with people who are blind who seek to enhance their independence, dignity, and self-confidence through the use of Seeing Eye dogs. 

Completing the cast are Morgan Petronis of Delran as Kate Keller; Moot Davis of Hamilton as Captain Keller; Graham Mazie of Ewing, NJas James Keller; Laurie Hardy of Hamilton as Aunt Ev; Tia Brown of Lawrenceville as Viney; Justin Saintil of West Windsor as Percy; Isis Henderson of Hamilton Square as Martha and Scott Karlin of Plainsboro as the Doctor and Mr. Anagnos. The blind girls from the Perkins School are played by Amanda Banks of Princeton, Taylor Buffa of New Egypt, Marissa Marciano of Plainsboro, Julia Patella of Cranbury, and Julia Weingaertner of Princeton Junction. Voice over roles are being performed by Simon Hamilton of Princeton as Jimmie Sullivan, with the adult voice over parts performed by Scott Karlin and Rosie Karlin of Plainsboro; M. Kitty Getlik of Hamilton and Laurie Hardy. 

The show is produced by Beverly Kuo Hamilton of Princeton, directed by Judi Parrish of West Trenton, stage management by Eliza Burwell of Hopewell; technical direction by Bryan Schendlinger of Langhorne, PA; lighting design by M. Kitty Getlik; costume design by Kathy Slothower of Plainsboro and properties by Dottie Farina of Hamilton.

Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $12 for students and children. For tickets, call the Kelsey Theatre box office at 609-570-3333, or order online at http://www.kelseyatmccc.org.

Kelsey Theatre is wheelchair accessible, with free parking available next to the theater.

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