Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Senses on Stage

I recently watched a stage production of The Miracle Worker here at the U.   As someone who has seen productions of this play as well as the film, I confess I went with trepidation in my heart and ennui in my soul: why are they trotting out this old warhorse?  Ugh.

The acting was, of course, uneven--something from which U productions everywhere suffer--and the dialogue today sounds particularly clunky.  That said, this production put a new spin on the old story by using a screen backdrop.  (Thankfully this choice didn't stem from the erroneous belief that technology is needed on the contemporary stage.)  The screen was used to open up Helen Keller's world.

Three types of screen projections were used.  The standard "scenery" projection worked well by fading into what it was--background.  The "symbolism" screens, however, of combination locks and keyholes were heavy-handed and distracting.  But then there were these wonderful "hand-speech" projections. When Sullivan would sign on Keller's hand, this signing was enlarged on the screen behind them.  I've always wondered what it might be like to have someone sign on my open palm, and now, for the first time, I could translate, thanks to a large visual, what this sensation might be.  I could almost feel the signing on my skin. Until technology can create the sense of touch for an audience, I applaud the attempt to achieve it, ironically, through our eyes.