‘The Miracle Worker’ play tells uplifting story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan

CAST MEMBERS include (front from left) Abbey Mulka, Mallory Ryan, (middle from left)Emmalyn Riddle, Ashley Nowicki, Sophia Schiepek, Hannah Hentkowski, (middle from left) Jacob Bruski, Bradley Heidemann and Daniel Bielas. Missing was Miranda Seiter. (Photo by Richard Lamb)
CAST MEMBERS include (front from left) Abbey Mulka, Mallory Ryan, (middle from left)Emmalyn Riddle, Ashley Nowicki, Sophia Schiepek, Hannah Hentkowski, (middle from left) Jacob Bruski, Bradley Heidemann and Daniel Bielas. Missing was Miranda Seiter. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

A memorable production is set to hit the stage of the Rogers City Community Theatre (RCCT). “The Miracle Worker,” the story of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan, is set to take the stage Thursday-Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
In the early 1880s, the infant daughter of a genteel southern family is left deaf and blind after a serious illness.  Deprived of any real way to communicate with the world, Helen Keller spends her first years living as little more than a wild animal.
Enter Sullivan, a determined young teacher who knows what it feels like to be blind. The intrepid 20-year- old must face the reservations of Helen’s family and the obstacles presented by the child’s lack of language while battling the ghosts of her own past. But Annie is determined to break into Helen’s wild-animal darkness and let the light of understanding into her young pupil’s waiting mind.
The all-high school cast is a mix of theater veterans and new recruits.  It includes both Rogers City High School students and area homeschoolers. Mallory Ryan plays spirited Sulllivan, alongside Abbey Mulka as the strong-willed Helen Keller.  Both actresses have bruised legs and arms from their onstage tussles, but they dive into their exhausting roles with cheerful energy. Jacob Bruski and Emmalyn Riddle, a pair of strong performers with exceptional sensitivity to the inner lives of their characters, play the Keller parents. Bradley Heidemann as James Keller shows his acting chops as he deftly moves his character from a self-absorbed idler to a young man who is discovering the courage to take a stand.
The five remaining actors perform the marvelous theatrical feat of being 20 places at once.  Daniel Bielas, Hannah Hentkowski, Ashley Nowicki, Sophia Schiepek, and Miranda Seiter are constantly popping on and off the stage, playing multiple roles, moving furniture, providing ghostly voices from the past, whipping through instant costume changes and endlessly setting the table.
Julie Riddle, directs the play and has strong connections to the story.
“I’m a first-time director, and very grateful to the Rogers City Community Theatre Board for the opportunity to give it a shot.  My goodness, it’s been fantastic.  The teens are such a joy to work with. Their dedication and work ethic are inspiring. It has been a pleasure to watch them discover new strengths within themselves as they inhabited their characters,” Julie Riddle said.
Director Riddle said the RCCT board is pleased to have been given the opportunity to reintroduce high school theater to Rogers City.
“Many area residents will remember performing in a play during their youth or watching their friends shine during their moment under the spotlights. Drama can be transformative, especially in the life of a teenager.  On the stage you find new freedom as you speak through another person’s mouth.  Acting connects you to the universality of human experience,” Julie Riddle said.
“On the stage you don’t just observe the people around you; you feel from the inside who and what another person truly is. And in the process, you find a little bit of yourself.  That’s what I so desperately want for these young people that I have come to love: for them to see inside themselves.  And to see how beautiful they are.”
For director Riddle, the play represents a step back in time, as she performed it twice before.
“I have a personal attachment to this play.  I performed in it both in college and in high school, where I was directed by my dad.  Years later it was the first play my brother directed.  Several props in our current show were used in my high school production.  Seeing those items in the hands of my cast weaves together patches of time and space and makes my heart tug at the enduring magic of theater,” she said.
Audiences should expect a good show, as the actors and director have been putting a lot of effort into the production.
“Don’t come to this show expecting a cute but clumsy children’s performance.  It’s not cute.  It’s good.  These young people are not a bunch of kids, they are actors.  And they are good.  Come because ‘The Miracle Worker’ is a play that will leave you seeing life with different eyes, eyes that have been reminded of the blindness and deafness that we all share, and of the power of love to perform miracles,” Julie Riddle said.
In an effort to continue to provide quality programming to the Rogers City area, The RCCT board of directors recently decided to eliminate their senior pricing.  Adult tickets remain $12.00, while students pay $6.