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Authors: William Gibson

The Miracle Worker

BOOK: The Miracle Worker
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“When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.”

—Helen Keller

THE MIRACLE WORKER

“An emotional earthquake . . . a magnificent drama. A play with the power to wrench the heart.”

—
New York Mirror

“Really and truly powerful, hair-raising, spine-tingling, touching and just plain wonderful!”

—
New York Herald Tribune

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for the wife and the kids and the next breath with love

THE MIRACLE WORKER

A PLAY IN THREE ACTS

“At another time she asked, ‘What is a soul?' ‘No one knows,' I replied; ‘but we know it is not the body, and it is that part of us which thinks and loves and hopes.' . . . [and] is invisible. . . . ‘But if I write what my soul thinks,' she said, ‘then it will be visible, and the words will be its body.' ”

—A
NNIE
S
ULLIVAN
, 1891

T
HE PLAYING SPACE
is divided into two areas by a more or less diagonal line, which runs from downstage right to upstage left.

T
HE AREA
behind this diagonal is on platforms and represents the Keller house; inside we see, down right, a family room, and up center, elevated, a bedroom. On stage level near center, outside a porch, there is a water pump.

T
HE OTHER AREA
, in front of the diagonal, is neutral ground; it accommodates various places as designated at various times—the yard before the Keller home, the Perkins Institution for the Blind, the garden house, and so forth.

T
HE CONVENTION OF THE STAGING
is one of cutting through time and place, and its essential qualities are fluidity and spatial counterpoint. To this end, the less set there is, the better; in a literal set, the fluidity will seem merely episodic. The stage therefore should be free, airy, unencumbered by walls. Apart from certain practical items—such as the pump, a window to climb out of, doors to be locked—locales should be only skeletal suggestions, and the movement from one to another should be accomplishable by little more than lights.

CHARACTERS

A DOCTOR

KATE

KELLER

HELEN

MARTHA

PERCY

AUNT EV

JAMES

ANAGNOS

ANNIE SULLIVAN

VINEY

BLIND GIRLS

A SERVANT

OFFSTAGE VOICES

TIME:
The 1880's.

PLACE:
In and around the Keller homestead in Tuscumbia, Alabama; also, briefly, the Perkins Institution for the Blind, in Boston.

ACT I

IT IS NIGHT OVER THE KELLER HOMESTEAD.

Inside, three adults in the bedroom are grouped around a crib, in lamplight. They have been through a long vigil, and it shows in their tired bearing and disarranged clothing. One is a young gentlewoman with a sweet girlish face,
KATE KELLER;
the second is an elderly
DOCTOR,
stethoscope at neck, thermometer in fingers; the third is a hearty gentleman in his forties with chin whiskers,
CAPTAIN ARTHUR KELLER.

DOCTOR:
She'll live.

KATE:
Thank God.

(The
DOCTOR
leaves them together over the crib, packs his bag.)

DOCTOR:
You're a pair of lucky parents. I can tell you now, I thought she wouldn't.

KELLER:
Nonsense, the child's a Keller, she had the constitution of a goat. She'll outlive us all.

DOCTOR
[
AMIABLY
]: Yes, especially if some of you Kellers don't get a night's sleep. I mean you, Mrs. Keller.

KELLER:
You hear, Katie?

KATE:
I hear.

KELLER
[
INDULGENT
]: I've brought up two of them, but this is my wife's first, she isn't battle-scarred yet.

KATE:
Doctor, don't be merely considerate, will my girl be all right?

DOCTOR:
Oh, by morning she'll be knocking down Captain Keller's fences again.

KATE:
And isn't there anything we should do?

KELLER
[
JOVIAL
]: Put up stronger fencing, ha?

DOCTOR:
Just let her get well, she knows how to do it better than we do.

(He is packed, ready to leave.)

Main thing is the fever's gone, these things come and go in infants, never know why. Call it acute congestion of the stomach and brain.

KELLER:
I'll see you to your buggy, Doctor.

DOCTOR:
I've never seen a baby, more vitality, that's the truth.

(He beams a good night at the baby and
KATE,
and
KELLER
leads him downstairs with a lamp. They go down the porch steps, and across the yard, where the
DOCTOR
goes off left;
KELLER
stands with the lamp aloft.
KATE
meanwhile is bent lovingly over the crib, which emits a bleat; her finger is playful with the baby's face.)

KATE:
Hush. Don't you cry now, you've been trouble enough. Call it acute congestion, indeed, I don't see what's so cute about a congestion, just because it's yours. We'll have your father run an editorial in his paper, the wonders of modern medicine, they don't know what they're curing even when they cure it. Men, men and their battle scars, we women will have to—

(But she breaks off, puzzled, moves her finger before the baby's eyes.)

Will have to—Helen?

(Now she moves her hand, quickly.)

Helen.

(She snaps her fingers at the baby's eyes twice, and her hand falters; after a moment she calls out, loudly.)

Captain. Captain, will you come—

(But she stares at the baby, and her next call is directly at her ears.)

Captain!

(And now, still staring,
KATE
screams.
KELLER
in the yard hears it, and runs with the lamp back to the house.
KATE
screams again, her look intent on the baby and terrible.
KELLER
hurries in and up.)

KELLER:
Katie? What's wrong?

KATE:
Look.

(She makes a pass with her hand in the crib, at the baby's eyes.)

KELLER:
What, Katie? She's well, she needs only time to—

KATE:
She can't see. Look at her eyes.

(She takes the lamp from him, moves it before the child's face.)

She can't
see!

KELLER:
[
HOARSELY
]: Helen.

KATE:
Or hear. When I screamed she didn't blink. Not an eyelash—

KELLER:
Helen. Helen!

KATE:
She can't
hear
you!

KELLER:
Helen!

(His face has something like fury in it, crying the child's name;
KATE
almost fainting presses her knuckles to her mouth, to stop her own cry.

The room dims out quickly.

Time, in the form of a slow tune of distant belfry chimes which approaches in a crescendo and then fades, passes; the light comes up
again on a day five years later, on three kneeling children and an old dog outside around the pump.

The dog is a setter named
BELLE,
and she is sleeping. Two of the children are Negroes,
MARTHA
and
PERCY.
The third child is
HELEN,
six and a half years old, quite unkempt, in body a vivacious little person with a fine head, attractive, but noticeably blind, one eye larger and protruding; her gestures are abrupt, insistent, lacking in human restraint, and her face never smiles. She is flanked by the other two, in a litter of paper-doll cutouts, and while they speak
HELEN'S
hands thrust at their faces in turn, feeling baffledly at the movements of their lips.)

MARTHA
[
SNIPPING
]: First I'm gonna cut off this doctor's legs, one, two, now then—

PERCY:
Why you cuttin' off that doctor's legs?

MARTHA:
I'm gonna give him a operation. Now I'm gonna cut off his arms, one, two. Now I'm gonna fix up—

(She pushes
HELEN'S
hand away from her mouth.)

You stop that.

PERCY:
Cut off his stomach, that's a good operation.

MARTHA:
No, I'm gonna cut off his head first, he got a bad cold.

PERCY:
Ain't gonna be much of that doctor left to fix up, time you finish all them opera—

(But
HELEN
is poking her fingers inside his mouth, to feel his tongue; he bites at them, annoyed, and she jerks them away.
HELEN
now fingers her own lips, moving them in imitation, but soundlessly.)

MARTHA:
What you do, bite her hand?

PERCY:
That's how I do, she keep pokin' her fingers in my mouth, I just bite 'em off.

MARTHA:
What she tryin' do now?

PERCY:
She tryin'
talk
. She gonna get mad. Looka her tryin' talk.

(
HELEN
is scowling, the lips under her fingertips moving in ghostly silence, growing more and more frantic, until in a bizarre rage she bites at her own fingers. This sends
PERCY
off into laughter, but alarms
MARTHA
.)

MARTHA:
Hey, you stop now.

(She pulls
HELEN'S
hand down.)

You just sit quiet and—

(But at once
HELEN
topples
MARTHA
on her back, knees pinning her shoulders down, and grabs the scissors.
MARTHA
screams.
PERCY
darts to the bell string on the porch, yanks it, and the bell rings.

Inside, the lights have been gradually coming up on the main room, where we see the family informally gathered, talking, but in pantomime;
KATE
sits darning socks near a cradle, occasionally rocking it;
CAPTAIN KELLER
in spectacles is working over newspaper pages at a table; a benign visitor in a hat,
AUNT EV,
is sharing the sewing basket, putting the finishing touches on a big shapeless doll made out of towels; an indolent young man,
JAMES KELLER,
is at the window watching the children.

With the ring of the bell,
KATE
is instantly on her feet and out the door onto the porch, to take in the scene; now we see what these five years have done to her, the girlish playfulness is gone, she is a woman steeled in grief.)

BOOK: The Miracle Worker
4.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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