By Stephanie Choate
When Champlain Valley Union High School junior Zoey LaChance steps onto the stage as Helen Keller this weekend, the experience will be personally significant.
“I have a sister who is severely autistic and nonverbal,” she said. “It’s very meaningful for me to experience what she feels like on a daily basis and I really want people to know that…. It’s a chance to show people what it’s like to be trapped inside yourself and not have a way to communicate.”
Champlain Valley Union High School’s spring theater production, “The Miracle Worker,” is set to open this weekend, with performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s a touching and powerful story,” said Candy Padula, CVU co-curricular theater program director. “There are certainly powerful plays out there, but I do think this is one of the most powerful ones that touches your soul. I think it’s also a lovely uplifting experience, and it’s nice to be uplifted.”
The story opens with 19-month-old Keller recovering from a bout of what the onstage doctor refers to as “acute congestion of the stomach and brain,” and her mother begins to realize that she is not responding to light or sound.
“Her family desperately tried to find a way to reach her and to communicate with her. Eventually, they brought in a very young teacher, Annie Sullivan… this is the story of Annie Sullivan trying to reach and teach Helen how to communicate,” Padula said.
Freshman Madeleine Barrett of Williston, who plays the role of Sullivan, said the play has something for everyone, along with some food fights sure to please younger audience members. In a “weird twist of fate,” Barrett said, her mother, Deidre, played the same role when she was a freshman in high school.
“The play is really great, and we have a phenomenal cast,” Barrett said. “Everyone has worked really hard and it’s all coming together really well.”
Padula’s team of 14 cast members and 12 technical crew members have been working on the show for approximately two and a half months.
“We have a very supportive cast and crew that have really been helping to ease the stress of the coming performance,” LaChance said.
LaChance, a Williston resident who has been involved in theater since fifth grade, said this play is the most physically demanding she has ever performed in.
“Maddie and I are always tussling, and we have bruises,” she said.
Padula said the play, written by William Gibson and based on Keller’s autobiography, is one of her favorites.
“It’s such an amazing drama,” she said. “It’s very powerful, but also there’s an awful lot of humor in it.”
Tickets are $7 for general admission; $5 for students, children, faculty and staff. Tickets are available at the door or can be reserved by calling 482-6991.