The Miracle Worker, Act One
The playing space is divided into two areas by a more or less diagonal line, which runs from downstage right to upstage left.
The 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.
The other area, in front of the diagonal, is neutral ground; it accommodates various places as designated at various timesóthe yard before the Keller home, the Perkins Institution for the Blind, the garden house, and so forth.
The less set there is, the better. The stage should be free, airy, unencumbered by walls. Apart from certain practical itemsósuch as the pump, a window to climb out of, doors to be lockedólocales should be only skeletal suggestions, and the movement from one to another should be accomplishable by little more than lights.
Kate, Helenís mother
Keller, Helenís father
Percy } children of servants
James, Captain Kellerís son by his first marriage
Anagnos, Director of the Perkins Institution for the Blind, in Boston
Viney, a servant
Time: The 1880s.
Place: In and around the Keller homestead in Tuscumbia, Alabama; also, briefly, the Perkins Institution for the Blind, in Boston
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. Sheíll live.
Kate. Thank God.
[The DOCTOR leaves them together over the crib, packs his bag.]
Doctor. Youíre a pair of lucky parents. I can tell you now, I thought she wouldnít.
Keller. Nonsense, the childís a Keller, she has the constitution1 of a goat. Sheíll outlive us all.
Doctor (amiably). Yes, especially if some of you Kellers donít get a nightís sleep. I mean you, Mrs. Keller.
Keller. You hear, Katie?
Kate. I hear.
Keller (indulgent). Iíve brought up two of them, but this is my wifeís first, she isnít battle-scarred yet.
Kate. Doctor, donít be merely considerate, will my girl be all right?
Doctor. Oh, by morning sheíll be knocking down Captain Kellerís fences again.
Kate. And isnít 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 feverís gone, these things come and go in infants, never know why. Call it acute congestion of the stomach and brain.
Keller. Iíll see you to your buggy, Doctor.
Doctor. Iíve never seen a baby with more vitality, thatís 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 babyís face.]
Kate. Hush. Donít you cry now, youíve been trouble enough. Call it acute congestion, indeed, I donít see whatís so cute about a congestion, just because itís yours. Weíll have your father run an editorial in his paper, the wonders of modern medicine, they donít know what theyíre curing even when they cure it. Men, men and their battle scars, we women will have toó(But she breaks off, puzzled, moves her finger before the babyís eyes.) Will have toóHelen? (Now she moves her hand, quickly.) Helen. (She snaps her fingers at the babyís eyes twice, and her hand falters; after a moment she calls out, loudly.) Captain. Captain, will you comeó(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? Whatís wrong?
Kate. Look. (She makes a pass with her hand in the crib, at the babyís eyes.)
Keller. What, Katie? Sheís well, she needs only time toó
Kate. She canít see. Look at her eyes. (She takes the lamp from him, moves it before the childís face.) She canít see!
Kate. Or hear. When I screamed she didnít blink. Not an eyelashó
Keller. Helen. Helen!
Kate. She canít hear you!
[His face has something like fury in it, crying the childís 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 black, 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 HELENíS hands thrust at their faces in turn, feeling baffledly at the movements of their lips.
Martha (snipping). First Iím gonna cut off this doctorís legs, one, two, now thenó
Percy. Why you cuttiní off that doctorís legs?
Martha. Iím gonna give him a operation. Now Iím gonna cut off his arms, one, two. Now Iím gonna fix upó(She pushes HELENíS hand away from her mouth.) You stop that.
Percy. Cut off his stomach, thatís a good operation.
Martha. No, Iím gonna cut off his head first, he got a bad cold.
Percy. Ainít gonna be much of that doctor left to fix up, time you finish all them operaó
Click here to navigate through the play: page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 7, page 8, and Homework.
Back to the Table of Contents