Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On Saturday night I had the pleasure and privilege of watching my dear friend Story star as Annie Sullivan in Marshall University Theatre's production of "The Miracle Worker."

I have seen all of the shows Story has been in (and have the autographed programs to prove it!), but this one was truly, truly something special. First, because Story was playing a role that was just perfect for her. Second, because Story was a star. And third, because Joe got to see Story perform, and he also got to meet her for the first time.

Story's mom, Jenny, had seen every performance, so by the time we attended on closing night, Jenny had seen the show from almost every angle. This time, the last time, she wanted to see it from the front row. Now, this sounds like a normal thing for someone's mom to say, but you must realize that this production was in Marshall's experimental theatre, so sitting in the front row basically put you on stage in the show. It was truly a wonderful and unique experience to see the show from so close a view.

I was taken in by so very many things that were said and done in this show. For example, Annie's lines:

Everything the earth is full of, Helen.
Everything on it that's ours for a wink.
And what we are on it. The light we bring to it and leave behind in words.
You can see years back in the light of words.
Everything we feel, think, know, and share in words.

I teach English, so I traffic in words. My life is words. I live for words. Amazing.

While many things about the show were very moving, there is one part where I just started crying and couldn't stop. Just. could. not. stop. I don't mean a few tears falling. I mean like sobbing, unable to get the words out to explain why I was crying.

It happened right at the end. Helen has just realized that the "w-a-t-e-r" letters Annie has been writing in Helen's hands stand for an actual thing, which is water. Helen "asks" Annie to tell her the names of many other things, including ground, pump, step, mother, and papa.

And then.

Oh, and then.

Helen "asks" Annie who she is.

Annie doesn't sign "A-n-n-i-e." (Which is what my family calls me, actually.)

Oh no, she does not.

What does she sign?


I lost it.

The thing is, I actually took a sign language class in elementary school, and, while I can't remember most things, I have always remembered the alphabet. So before Annie/Story even said it out loud, I "read" what she signed in Helen's hand:


I was crying before Annie said the word.




When the lights came up, and I was still crying, Joe looked at me and said, "You're crying! Are you okay?"

And I said, sobbing, "That's it. That's exactly it. That is exactly what it's like to reach a student who is hard to reach. That is exactly how it feels."

I told Story that, too, after the show, and she said she just knew that I would love that part. (Of course she did.)

Who are you?

Not Anna.


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