Mark Twain Said It First

28 Nov

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In 1909, Mark Twain inscribed one of his photographs to a 43 year-old woman. 

…She was a celebrity in her own right, due to the fact that years previously…half blind, and with only six years of education under her belt, she’d graduated valedictorian of her class. The following summer, answering a posting as a teacher and governess, she began her journey, eventually arriving at a small southern town over 1200 miles away from any place she had ever called ” home.”

All by the age of 20.  

Nevermind the fact that before age 14, she was blind, deserted with her brother in the poorhouse,  slept on a cot beside the alter in the dead-house for 4 years, had never owned a comb, or been given a single day of education.

…Despite it all, by the time Mark Twain inscribed his photograph, she had already managed to begin a life-long friendship with Alexander Graham Bell, met President Grover Cleveland by special appointment in Washington DC, was on several National Education Committees, and helped her only student across the past 22 years, gain a Bachelor of Arts degree from Radcliff College, cum laude.  

That student, was Helen Keller.

…The first blind-deaf graduate to ever earn a BA…never mind in Ivy League…whose tireless work for equality, education and rights for minorities and specifically the deaf and blind, would send her (and her Teacher) to speak and advocate in nearly every country on the planet… inspiring Eleanor Roosevelt to deem Keller, “Good Will Ambassador to the world.”

…None of which would have been possible, had not someone broken through the black silence, giving her the key of communication. Just 26 gestures in a cupped hand. Letters, which spelled out words. Words that had a meaning.

The inscription, the enamored Samuel Clemens had written on his photograph, summed an entire world-wide view, from every country with a newspaper and a finger to the pulse of current events, science, and education at the time:

“To Mrs. John Sullivan Macy with warm regard and with limitless admiration of the wonders she has performed as a miracle-worker.”
~ Mark Twain

So the story begins. 

A child of illiterate Irish immigrants, with the tenaciously stubborn spirit to survive her ruined childhood of desertion, hunger, disease, and abuse…who fought her way though poor house, blindness, massive medical undertakings, and loss of every family member by age ten; to become the only hope to a blind-deaf child from a privileged southern family, seemingly an entire world away from all she had ever known, and become the first woman in history to be interred at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., solely on her own merit.

…This, but the tip of the iceberg in beginning research for another bucket list role, coming up this February:

Miss Annie Sullivan.

…An astonishingly large pair of button-up boots to fill.

I adore biographical plays. They are my absolute favorite…bringing out the amazing communion of history in completely living form. The hours and hours of research like a detective-archeologist…chipping away across page after page, quote after quote…to piece together notes, facts, letters, theories…to dig in archives, build timelines, and fill notebooks with endless findings in scribbles. To get the absolute closest you can to the bone of the person. To, in the end, commune with them in hopes you bring out the fullest version possible…honoring them with the portraying of informed “truth,” as best as you can grasp it.

Since the moment I first sat shocked and thoroughly awed by Annie Bancroft and Patty Duke’s performances on film…I’ve wanted to know what it would be like, to be IN that stubborn Irish skin, myself.

…To see what I could do, if I studied very hard, learned all I could, and let her come out as she needed to, with me as her vessel.

And now, I get to.

And WHAT an honor.

…Little did I know before the research began…just how much she had to offer, and from how far she had come to achieve it all.

A miracle worker, indeed.

Now, to meet my OWN hellishly brilliant little Helen.

…And begin as Annie once did: to earn the trust and find a singular way to communicate and bond with this new little person, entrusted in my care.

It’s you n’ me kid, with a stellar team to guide n’ support us. Let’s do ’em proud.

~D

 
 

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4 Responses to “Mark Twain Said It First”

  1. Carolyn Cook November 29, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    Congratulations!

  2. beautiful December 2, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    You got an amazing role! Thank you for sharing Anne Sullivan’s life, I had no idea of how hard her own childhood was. I admire her much more.

    • She Writes A Little December 2, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

      Thank you! Am certainly looking forward to giving her the best I’ve got 🙂

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