Local play brings historical figure to life

RTOP’s latest show gives the audience a lesson on building bridges through the story of Helen Keller


OLIVER MCKENNA | The Daily Evergreen

Eliza McNelly, who plays Helen Keller, talks about the challenges of her role in the Regional Theatre of the Palouse’s production of “The Miracle Worker.”

MORGAN LESTER, Evergreen reporter

Next week, the Regional Theatre of the Palouse is raising its curtain for its production of “The Miracle Worker.”

The play follows the story of how a young Helen Keller came to write, speak and communicate with the world around her through the persistence and dedication of her teacher and her family. They wanted nothing more than to reach the brilliant child that lay beyond a bridge burned by a disease that rendered her deaf and blind.

Amy McNelly, who portrays Kate Keller in the production, said the cast and crew saw a central theme of communication in the play and bridging the divide between languages.

“Just because you can’t communicate with someone, doesn’t mean you’re worthless,” McNelly said.

McNelly is joined by her husband, Matt, and her daughter, Eliza, who play Arthur and Helen Keller, respectively.

OLIVER MCKENNA | The Daily Evergreen
Regional Theatre of the Palouse Director Michael Todd talks about why he chose to put on”The Miracle Worker.”

This sentiment on communication was echoed through the director, Michael Todd, who had a particular passion for this production.

“I was a Spanish major and German minor,” Todd said, “and I have always been interested in bridging those gaps.”

Given the history tied to the play, Todd said he took plenty of time to research the show, to make the set, costumes and other details match the history that they portrayed.

“These were historical characters,” Todd said, “so learning more about them really wasn’t difficult.”

He said that he dispersed the research among the actors, which allowed them to further develop their characters, and their portrayals of them. Similar research developed the style of the set, which was constructed with some 100-year old pieces that have been well-maintained by the theatre.

“The Miracle Worker” will be at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Sept. 28 – 30. Tickets are $15 and are available online and at the RTOP box office.