WBU theatre to present Monday After the Miracle

September 27, 2011

PLAINVIEW – The Wayland Baptist University theatre department opens its 2011-12 season with a drama, exploring the emotional development of characters whose lives are very different from what is considered normal.

Monday After the Miracle is the sequel to William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker and takes up the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan later in life as Keller grows into young womanhood and Sullivan finds her attention diverted by the love of a young man. The play runs Oct. 6-8 with shows at 7:30 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee on Oct. 9. All performances will be in Wayland’s Black Box in the Harral Memorial Auditorium complex. Admission is $8 and reservations are available by calling the WBU theatre office at 806-291-1089.

Director of Theatre Dr. Marti Runnels said this is a show he has wanted to stage since the early 1990s, but hasn’t found the right time, until now.

“It’s a very provocative show,” Runnels said, explaining that it will hopefully force people to question their own notions and misconceptions about the handicapped.

Monday After the Miracle picks up as Keller decides she wants to go to college. Keller, who is blind and deaf relies heavily on Sullivan who serves as her eyes and ears throughout life. Runnels explained that the two women are tied together in ways that people simply cannot imagine. While The Miracle Worker dealt primarily with the development of Keller, this play looks at both characters.

“They are glued to each other, and it is a relationship in many ways that is more profound than a marital relationship,” Runnels said. “In a marital relationship, there is a sense of independence that a man and woman can gain by going on a business trip or a girls’ weekend. It is normal stuff. But this could never, ever happen with these two women.”

The conflict begins when a man falls in love with Sullivan, forcing the three main characters to deal with the real-life issues of human sexuality in a very difficult situation.

“How does a man fall in love with someone who is attached to someone else in ways that are so profound the normal person can’t even fathom it?” Runnels said.

While the subject matter and writing is initially what drove Runnels to produce the play, he said another reason is the challenge of the technical aspect of creating a realistic performance.

“This is probably in the top three most difficult plays I have ever directed,” Runnels said. “I wanted to do it because it is a challenge. It is not going to be easy to play someone who is blind and deaf.”

Runnels said the entire cast is learning sign language in order to make it realistic. He said cast members are going so far as to work on their sign language during other classes. As professors lecture, students will use sign language to repeat what is being said. Corrina Browning, a theatre veteran, who plays Annie Sullivan, has been the most prolific signer among the cast.

“She said she gets some weird looks occasionally from her professors,” Runnels said. “That is part of the challenge.”

Another major challenge facing Runnels on the technical end is communicating what is being said through sign language to the audience. Runnels plans on doing this through recorded voice overs by the cast. This will make it imperative that everyone hits their sound cues at the same times to give a more realistic performance. Actors and technical crew members will have to work in unison to avoid any major gaffs in production.

“If anything starts to break down in terms of audio/visual stuff, we are in trouble,” Runnels said.

The final reason Runnels selected this play was to deal with social stigmas that are placed on the disabled.

“One of the reasons I wanted to do this play is so that people see that Helen Keller is a woman and she has feelings of attraction to men just like any other young woman,” Runnels said. “This play will make you think about what makes someone different.”

Browning will take the lead as Annie Sullivan. Elizabeth Miller, a theatre major from Sugarland, will play the role of Helen Keller. Thomas Hoffman, a WBU graduate, will portray John. Corbin Waters, from Bovina, will play Dr. Ed, and Matthew Whitson of Lubbock will fill the role of Pete.