Faith Alford (left) and Anna Pack (right) portray Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller in Campbell County High School’s recent production of The Miracle Worker.
Review by Eliza Russo, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team
The story of Helen Keller, the deaf-blind girl who learned to communicate through the help of her teacher, is a beloved American tale, but her teacher's name is often lost in retellings: Annie Sullivan. Campbell County High School, however, brings Annie Sullivan to the forefront of the story in their production of The Miracle Worker.
Written by William Gibson and inspired by Helen Keller's The Story of My Life, The Miracle Worker is, ultimately, a story about connection. Rendered blind and deaf after a terrible childhood fever, Helen Keller (Anna Pack) has grown accustomed to being spoiled by her well-meaning, but confused and unsure, family and is unwilling to change when the Kellers hire a new governess in a last-ditch attempt to help her. Annie Sullivan (Faith Alford) takes on the challenge, proving to both Helen and her family that there is more to life than what meets the eye.
Meticulous attention to detail from both the cast and crew of Campbell County High School truly transformed this show. The show utilizes American Sign Language throughout, meaning that many performers had to memorize lines in ASL--a challenge for fluent users, let alone those just learning. This detail enhanced many scenes throughout the show, making for an engaging experience.
Faith Alford took on the role of Annie Sullivan with immense grace, capturing her dry wit and well-mannered stubbornness perfectly throughout the show. Pitted against head of the household Captain Arthur Keller (Dayne Freudenberg) for the majority of the show, Alford held her own with passionate-but-reserved responses, stepping fully into the shoes of Miss Sullivan to deliver her lines.
Anna Pack delivered a phenomenal performance as Helen Keller, creating a realistic portrayal of a deaf-blind child seeking to connect with the world around her. Paired with Alford's Annie Sullivan, the duo had fantastic stage chemistry both in the numerous moments of frustration and in their final moment of connection. Pack's stubborn, quick-tempered depiction of Helen contrasted Alford's well-mannered Annie, leading to moments of heart-wrenching tension as the two fought over sitting at the table and using utensils during the breakfast scene, in which Annie attempts to teach Helen table manners.
The technical aspects of this show maintained the tone of the show well. Beautifully in-period costumes drew the audience into the show; Annie Sullivan's black high-collar blouse and skirt combo showcased her no-nonsense personality, held in high contrast to the bright tones of the Keller households' costumes. The eerie red cloaks of the Crones in Annie's flashbacks were an excellent, chilling touch to her late brother's monologues. The props crew used real food during scenes, contributing to the atmosphere of many dinner scenes as food flew through the air during Helen's tantrums. While sound issues led to difficulty understanding lines at points, the show moved fluidly and maintained the same pace and tone throughout. Overall, the crew maintained the tone of the show wonderfully and with grace.
Campbell County High School truly deserves a round of applause for their moving production of The Miracle Worker. They did a wonderful job in portraying this iconic true story in a genuine, thought-provoking manner that truly left the audience contemplating the meaning of connecting with the world.
Helen Keller, played by Anna Pack, finds comfort in the arms of her father, Captain Keller, portrayed by Dayne Freudenberg.
Review by Samuel Contreras, Highlands High School Critic Team
Water: the substance that is the source of life was, thus, the first step of the journey to greatness for Helen Keller.
The story of that first step was chronicled in the play, The Miracle Worker, adapted from Keller's own autobiography. Written by William Gibson, the play debuted in 1959 to critical acclaim, following Annie Sullivan, Keller's teacher and mentor who helped her transcend her limits of being blind and deaf-mute and discover language, although not without major difficulties.
Campbell County's<cq> adaptation of this tale was nothing short of spectacular. From a set of professional quality, to jaw-dropping fight choreography, to the incredible chemistry between the actors, Campbell County's The Miracle Worker dazzled.
Annie Sullivan (Faith Alford) and Helen Keller (Anna Pack) brought particularly noteworthy performances, with Anna Pack playing a very convincing Helen Keller without portraying a caricature, and Faith Alford showing her particularly impressive vocals by singing "Hush Little Baby." The two lead actresses had incredible chemistry and were extremely compelling to see on stage. Their 8-minute, silent fight choreography at the breakfast table was amazing, allowing the audience to feel the characters' exasperation without boring them.
The supporting cast was also stunning. Kate Keller (Sari Aboagye) was especially impressive, perfectly portraying a caring mother who simply wants the best for her child. The characters of Viney (Tammy Callahan) and Aunt Ev (Maura MacDonald) brought just enough without trivializing the seriousness of the subject matter, and the other cast members also contributed greatly to the realism and depth of the production.
Technically, this show was amazing. The set was hand-crafted and very sturdy, and while some of the microphones were troublesome, the actors utilized their voices and bodies well enough to compensate. One particularly stunning aspect was the transcription of the words Annie Sullivan wrote in her diary onto a backdrop during the performance. Lighting subtly but effectively conveyed the tone of each scene, with red lights being used for scenes from Annie's past. Perhaps the most stunning technical aspect was the presence of a working water pump on stage. Using an actual pump and a system using a bucket concealed by a wooden box, this element injected a massive amount of realism into the production.
Campbell County earned a well-deserved standing ovation from its audience and portrayed the story of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller with stunning accuracy and captivating performances from the whole cast.
The Keller family sits down for super in The Miracle Worker.
Review by Lela Grillot, Highlands High School Critic Team
Campbell County High School's production of The Miracle Worker presented the poignant story of Annie Sullivan, the teacher who taught Helen Keller how to speak despite both her blindness and deafness and the long, frustrating process it took to get there. Annie must navigate the stubborn and disapproving Keller family who doesn't understand her unorthodox teaching methods and is constantly butting heads with Helen's closed-minded father, Captain Arthur Keller. Annie deals with both her current situation and the demons of her past as a disabled woman. The Miracle Worker managed to tug at the heart strings of the audience, even in scenes without a single word of dialogue.
The show's smaller cast allowed for every actor to bring their all, but the two stand-out roles were Faith Alford's portrayal of Annie Sullivan and Anna Pack's portrayal of Helen Keller. Alford brought the determined Annie Sullivan to life, showcasing her range with everything from dry wit to heart-wrenching introspectiveness.
Anna Pack complimented her costar with her interpretation of Helen Keller, a delicate role that Pack skillfully portrayed while understanding the complexities of the role. Small details like dropping a key and taking an extended amount of time to find it and her approach to feeling her surroundings helped make her performance more accurate. Other highlights of the cast were the delightful comic relief roles of the Keller family maid, Viney, played by Tammy Callahan, and Percy, played by Dylan Keethler.
On top of the impressive performances of the cast, Campbell County's production of The Miracle Worker also excelled in the show's technical aspects. The costume crew, led by Jami Hiller, made costumes that resembled the fashion of the late 1800s down to a tee. Annie Sullivan's dress was particularly stunning, and its monochrome color palette perfectly fit her personality.
Another stand-out technical element was the work of the lighting crew, led by Karis Pugh and Adelaide Sheets. The lighting utilized a symbolic color palette, using darker lights in dramatic flashback scenes, and red lighting in pivotal moments in Helen's journey. Another impressive lighting element was the use of a projector that displayed the words that Annie Sullivan was teaching to Helen.
Campbell County High School's production of The Miracle Worker went above and beyond to present the emotional stories of people with disabilities and teaching and inspiring the audience, just as Annie Sullivan did.
“She knows many words - would you like to learn?” Annie Sullivan (Faith Alford) teaches Percy (Dylan Keethler) some of the words Helen Keller (Anna Pack) has put into her hands.
Excerpts From Other Top Reviews
"The Kellers' home, whose construction was overseen by Adelaide Sheets, was masterfully designed. The location of the structure was ingeniously placed so as to leave room for movable, temporary scenes on the side of the stage. Additionally, the efficient scene changes that crew members such as Karly Fleckenstein, Caroline Brimmer, and Tylar Frankowski completed allowed no time for distraction or boredom. The combination of period-specific costumes, set pieces, and props with the aesthetically pleasing lighting design made for a technically strong and immersive glimpse into the hectic world of the Kellers.
-Piper Chatman, Taylor High School Critic Team
"Even though The Miracle Worker has plenty of intense emotional beats, the supporting cast tended to add a layer of humor. Viney, the Keller's maid played by Tammy Callahan, had hilarious reactions to almost everything, providing some much needed comic relief. The ensemble was extremely versatile, switching from maids to school girls and playing both in a genuine manner."
-Libby Boehmer, Saint Ursula Academy Critic Team
"Anna Pack as Helen Keller was phenomenal. Her performance was predated with weeks of work, from being blindfolded during practices to identifying features of her cast so that she could recognize them through touch. Pack's hard work and dedication shows through her performance. Faith Alford brought complexities of Annie Sullivan to the stage. Alford expertly navigated between Annie's hard demeanor and her caring emotional undertones when teaching Helen, showing a deep understanding of Annie Sullivan."
-Elijah Smith, Highlands High School Critic Team
"The lighting crew, led by Karis Pugh and Adelaide Sheets, beautifully executed the design and clearly understood the tone of each scene, often using color as a means of communicating the underlying emotions. Throughout the performance, the words Helen learned were projected onto the set, which was a very visually interesting touch by the crew. Payton Couch and Jacob Smith's (Assistant Directors) creativity in blocking and interpreting the material did not go unnoticed, and their introduction to the show in sign language was a beautiful way to demonstrate the tone of the performance. The props crew, led by Ellie Flinchum and Caitlynn Smith, utilized intriguing props, including a working water pump, and even real food that got thrown about for many of the dining scenes."
-Michelle Nie, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team
"The supporting cast of the show consisted of the Keller family, Kate Keller, Captain Arthur Keller and James Keller. These characters were played by Sari Aboagye, Dayne Freundenburg, and Alex Bertucci respectively. All three of these Keller's experienced a broad character arc, learning how to communicate and love their daughter/sister. This was quite the task, considering the lack of knowledge in this time about disabilities. Seeing them grasp how to love someone who could not hear or see them, was deeply heartwarming."
-Samantha Heilman, Highlands High School Critic Team
"Helen Keller, performed by Anna Pack, entranced the audience with her physicality, from clinging to the legs of the dining room table to grasping out to identify her surroundings and family, displayed an exceptional level of commitment. Pack's physicality was heightened upon the arrival of her devoted teacher, Annie Sullivan, played by Faith Alford. While Pack remained persistent with her relentless emotions through colorful facials, Alford held a strong, steadfast composure throughout, driving the Keller family to rethink their ways. Pack and Alford held an inseparable chemistry, highlighted in their scramble during the Keller family breakfast."
-Courtney Reckelhoff, William Henry Harrison High School Critic Team
"Powerful performances from the incredible cast that spoke louder than words, and emotional complexity intensified through the meticulous planning of the crew, made for a show that audiences can always hold dear to their hearts. Through mute scenes and daunting circumstances, Campbell County High School taught everyone watching not only about hope, but also about the power of silence."
-Alyssa Rose, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team