By Stefanie Donahue
With several lead roles already under her belt, 11-year-old actress Kathryn McKinney is preparing to command audiences yet again in “The Miracle Worker,” a play based on the life of Helen Keller.
The show opens on Thursday, September 22 and runs until October 9 at the Claire Vg Thomas Theatre in Lynden. McKinney plays the role of Helen Keller and shares the stage with a cast of established actors, some local to Whatcom County.
“The Miracle Worker” is an original screenplay by William Gibson and tells the story of Helen Keller and her relationship with mentor Anne Sullivan. Both blind and deaf, Keller at first defied Sullivan’s guidance. Eventually, the two formed a lasting bond that defined both of their lives.
“The play is so beautifully written in the way that it reveals the struggles of Helen’s parents to love and care for their child and the utter isolation and frustration that was Helen’s life,” said director Teri Grimes in a news release. “I have loved this play for a long time and am excited about this opportunity to share it with the community.”
For McKinney, the role is a bit more complex than others she’s performed in the past.
She auditioned in early August and for the first time, was required to perform improv. After getting the callback, she played a key role during the casting for Sullivan’s role. Hopeful actors trying for the part had to attempt to physically maneuver McKinney into a chair while she stubbornly refused.
“It’s very challenging,” she said. “It’s a very physically demanding show.”
She’s had to prepare five days a week from 7 to 9:30 p.m. for the upcoming role. McKinney is also responsible for memorizing all the lines of her cast to satisfy the demands of the unique role on stage. It hasn’t been easy.
“Annie [Sullivan] never gave up,” McKinney said.
The important part of the story, she emphasized, is to never give up.
“The Miracle Worker” begins at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday from September 22 to October 9. A special October 8 showing will be signed for the hearing impaired.
Tickets are available at the Claire Vg Thomas Theatre in Lynden from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday or online at brownpapertickets.com.
To learn more about the Claire Vg Thomas Theatre, or “The Claire,” visit clairevgtheatre.com.