Blindfolds and earplugs became Cassandra Smith’s best friend as she prepared to play a historic role — Helen Keller.
Smith, a freshman theater major from Mapleton, said she was surprised to hear she got the role of Keller in the play, “The Miracle Worker.” The play tells the story of Keller, a deaf and blind child who learns about language from her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Sullivan also has a past of her own; she was partially blind and was raised in an asylum.
“The Miracle Worker” opened to the public Thursday night and will continue through Saturday night and Nov. 8 through Nov. 12. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. in the Eccles Fine Arts Center, with the doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or by visiting dsutix.com.
Smith described her character as being stubborn and getting what she wants.
“That’s why in the play, it took someone like Annie Sullivan, who was just as stubborn but who was older and more experienced to get through to [Helen],” Smith said.
A bond forms between Sullivan and Keller throughout the play, and Smith said it took practicing outside of rehearsals to perfect that bond with Bethany Gudgell, a senior theater major from Ogden who plays Sullivan.
Before and after rehearsals, Smith said she would put earplugs in and wear a blindfold as Gudgell led her around the Eccles Fine Arts Center and spell words to her on her hand to get more into their characters. She said she’s fallen and hit her shins on a few things while practicing. Smith also said she performed, during many weeks of rehearsals, blindfolded and with earplugs to learn her role better.
“The more we did it, the more I got used to it and the more it built up the trust between me and [Gudgell], which shows through on stage as well,” Smith said.
Michael Eaton, an adjunct professor and director of “The Miracle Worker,” said the bond between Smith and Gudgell has been “amazing to watch.”
“They trust each other so much that they can pretty much do anything, and the other person knows it,” Eaton said.
“The Miracle Worker” has typically resonated with an older audience, Smith said.
“I’m surprised by how many young people don’t know who Helen Keller is,” Eaton said. “I think if anything, a young audience can take away that no matter what your obstacle is, you can overcome to achieve what you want to achieve.”
Like Smith, Greg Petralia, a freshman art major from St. George, said he also struggled to perfect his role as Captain Keller, Helen Keller’s father. Petralia described his character as being a stern southern man who liked things to be in order.
“My character is like the exact opposite of me,” Petralia said. “He just gets frustrated very easily and is kind of a hot-head a little bit, so [the cast] had to get me to a level where I could be comfortable being angry all the time because I didn’t want to.”
Gudgell and other cast members said they hope the audience will be inspired by this play.
“The show is just so inspiring to me,” Gudgell said. “I wish that everyone who comes to see it will be inspired to go out and do something.”