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RIC Theatre’s ‘The Miracle Worker’ to be performed Sept. 26-30

Most people believe they know all about “The Miracle Worker,” the classic drama about Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. But even the most dedicated theatergoers are sure to find much that is new and exciting in the version now in production at Rhode Island College.

“The Miracle Worker” opens the 2012-13 RIC Mainstage Theatre season with six performances Sept. 26-30 in the Nazarian Center’s Sapinsley Hall.

Jimmy Calitri, a RIC graduate directing the show, is paying special attention to getting the details right by having cast members work with rehabilitation counselors. He also is adding new elements, such as a musical score prepared by the RIC Music Department.

In lead roles are Samantha Acampora, a RIC senior, who portrays Anne Sullivan, and Maria Corsini, a sophomore, who depicts Helen, a blind, deaf and mute child. They are among 21 cast members who have been working with local counselors for the blind and deaf to perfect their roles.

Another challenge is the intensive physical activity the play requires from actors. One key scene runs for nine minutes without dialogue “but a lot of physicality,” Calitri said, as Helen and Anne engage in a volatile battle of wills when first alone.

The musical score is under the direction of James Bohn, and adjunct music professor at RIC, and RIC student Aimee-Rose Willett.

Parts were cast at the end of the 2011-12 school year and rehearsals began in the summer. “I could have cast the show twice,” Calitri said, referring to the student acting talent at RIC. “Even the understudies are top-notch.”

It is fitting, perhaps, that RIC should be the school to host this drama due to its longtime reputation as the state’s premiere teaching college. “This is a show the school has wanted to produce for a long time,” Calitri said. “It has an important story to tell about the art of education and about the breaking of barriers.”

Calitri has directed about 30 productions in Rhode Island and elsewhere. In July, he directed “The 39 Steps” at the Grace Performing Arts Center in Princeton, Ill. He has also worked on shows at the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket. Currently, Calitri is an adjunct professor at RIC, where he received his undergraduate degree in 2001 and master’s in 2007. RIC is, he said, “my home base.”

“We are so proud to have Jimmy Calitri directing on the Mainstage here at RIC,” said Jamie Taylor, chair of RIC’s Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance. “He is a talented, award-winning director. Jimmy has successfully directed challenging plays … We were fortunate to scoop up such an in-demand director.”

Performances of “The Miracle Worker” are at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 26-29, and at 2 p.m., Sept. 29 and 30. General admission is $15. Tickets can be purchased in advance via Visa or MasterCard by calling (401) 456-8144 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, or online at www.ric.edu/pfa.