Odessa College Theater Performance Program chief Mark Kolokoff is always drawn to well- written plays and he counts “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson as one.
“Some people consider it to be one of the 100 best plays ever written. It’s really beautifully written,” Kolokoff said.
Planned for Feb. 22, Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Globe Theater on the Odessa College campus, 201 W. University Blvd., admission is $7 for adults; $5 for military and seniors; and free for students, OC faculty and staff.
The play is about Helen Keller (1880-1968), who was rendered blind, deaf and unable to speak after suffering from scarlet fever as a young child. Annie Sullivan (1866-1936) was hired by Keller’s parents to teach Keller to read, write and communicate. Keller is resistant at first, but eventually comes around, ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree from Radcliffe College.
Keller tackled social and political issues and testified before Congress advocate for improving the welfare of blind people. She also helped found the American Civil Liberties Union, the Biography.com website said.
“It’s not unlike some of my other choices, or almost all of my choices, since I’ve been at OC. First of all … I try to produce really well-written pieces. Second of all, I always look for pieces that are good for my actors in terms of the acting challenges (and) the dramatic elements in allowing them to develop these characters. This fits that bill,” Kolokoff said.
“I love the idea of this perseverance and surviving and overcoming massive challenges,” he added. “I just love that and I think that it’s something … to be held up right now in terms of our world (to) say, ‘Look, here’s a woman who was void of almost everything and graduated with graduate degrees, so anybody can.’ I love that end of things. That it’s such a story … of survival, of perseverance and will and all those kind of things.”
Kolokoff tries to balance serious plays with comedies. He acknowledges that “The Miracle Worker” isn’t his usual spring fare.
“Although it’s not a comedy … you don’t walk out being beaten up. You walk out thinking the story is truly about the human spirit, so it doesn’t fit into the comedy mold but it is uplifting at the end,” Kolokoff said.
He added that his cast is grasping the characters quickly because the characters are so beautifully constructed. Kolokoff said he has worked with most of the actors previously, but he does have a couple of newcomers.
Alexa Nease plays Helen Keller. Nease said she was in “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” which started off being directed by Carl Berry Moore, but Kolokoff took over when Moore had to leave due to an illness if the family.
This is Nease’s first official OC production, but she said she has been acting in theater in the Permian Basin for 15 years.
“I wanted to (have) a new experience, try a new director, see what it was like under different command …,” Nease said.
She had heard a lot of good things about Kokoloff.
“It’s most definitely different he is different. He’s got a little bit of aspects from Carl Moore, a little bit of the puppeteering because he’s got a vision that he’s wanting to portray, but he is also very good about letting people make their own decisions which I do like,” Nease said.
Nease said she had read a little bit about Keller in school.
“When I was cast as her, I realized I was going to be taking on a pretty large challenge. That’s for sure. Trying to pretend like you can’t see when you can is most definitely a challenge,” Nease added.
It was also an eye-opener for her in that she didn’t realize how much she relied on sight and hearing. “Even when you put a disconnect there, you still don’t realize that you’re still using them,” Nease said.
She noted that she doesn’t think the play has been produced in this area for a while.
“… I think the audience will most definitely enjoy it,” Nease said.
Nease’s mother, Cat Nease, is the costumer for the production. She is dressing actors in 1880s Victorian, post-Civil War style.
“It has been a challenge. For one, the period itself warrants lots of layers and form-fitting clothes that people aren’t used to wearing these days. It’s not like you just run out and buy patterns for everything. However, the costuming pattern industry has been booming lately and there’s more pieces available which is helpful. Of course, everybody’s style is different so we have a lot of alterations,” Nease said.
She added that she always tries to reuse what she can and one bright spot is that men’s fashion hasn’t changed a lot over the years.
Nease said her daughter has been in theater in the area since she was 7.
“Having her in the lead, as a mother I’m super proud. As the costumer, I have to say she’s an actor. I’m the costumer, so I have to let her do her thing and I have to do my thing and our job titles are different. We have to work together as a team, which sometimes gets a little bit difficult but we do it we’ve been doing it for years,” Nease said.
Destinee Lopez plays Keller’s mother, Kate. Lopez said she has been in high school plays, but this is her first for OC.
“I’m really interested in the story and I feel really connected to who Kate is and to the story. … The troubles they go through and the sacrifices they make (are) really relatable for any family,” Lopez said.
She said she knew something about Keller when she started the play, but she knows much more now. Without a way to speak or communicate, there would have been no way for Keller to grow, Lopez said.
She added that the cast is “awesome.”
“They’re so fun; they’re so easy to work off of. Everyone is really nice and really talented. We in here and everyone’s focused on a common goal of putting on a good production and telling Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan’s story. … Everyone’s really dedicated to making it beautiful, making it relatable and making people leave the theater feeling something,” Lopez said.
- What: “The Miracle Worker.”
- When: Feb. 22, Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
- Where: The Globe Theater on the Odessa College campus, 201 W. University Blvd.
- Admission is $7 for adults; $5 for military and seniors; and free for students, OC faculty and staff.
- Annie Sullivan: Blake Rogers.
- Helen Keller: Alexa Nease.
- Captain Keller: Aaron Callaway.
- Kate Keller: Destinee Lopez.
- James Keller: Alex Quezada.
- Aunt Ev: Savannah Poor.
- Anagnos/Doctor/Asylum patient: Cassidy Barbee.
- Viney: Brianna Valles.
- Percy/Asylum patient (pos.): Brayden Grant.
- Blind girls/Asylum patients: Daniella Rodriquez Sasha DeGraffenreid.
- Jimmy: Brock Bissel.