Casting of Abigail Breslin as Helen Keller Angers Deaf, Blind Groups
By PopEater Staff Posted Oct 29th 2009 12:25PM
It was announced Wednesday that 13-year-old Abigail Breslin will play Helen Keller in the Broadway revival of 'The Miracle Worker' this winter. But the news is being met with extreme opposition by blind and deaf advocacy groups, simply because of Breslin's ability to see and hear.
"We do not think it's O.K. for reputable producers to cast this lead role without seriously considering an actress from our community," said Sharon Jensen, executive director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, to the New York Times. "I understand how difficult it is to capitalize a new production on Broadway, but that to me is not the issue. There are other, larger human and artistic issues at stake here."
The show's producer, David Richenthal, made it clear that he wanted a star to play Keller in order to ensure commercial success, and he was unable to find a blind or deaf child actor who fit the bill. Breslin's star power stems from her Academy Award nomination for her role as Olive in 'Little Miss Sunshine.'
"It's simply naïve to think that in this day and age, you'll be able to sell tickets to a play revival solely on the potential of the production to be a great show or on the potential for an unknown actress to give a breakthrough performance," he said. "I would consider it financially irresponsible to approach a major revival without making a serious effort to get a star."
The producers do plan to audition blind and deaf actresses for Breslin's understudy, however, in a compromise that Richenthal says will still allow for high ticket sales. But he stressed that a seeing and hearing actress may be cast as understudy if they cannot find a "qualified" deaf or blind actress.
Helen Keller was a deaf and blind author and activist. 'The Miracle Worker' follows the relationship between Keller and Anne Sullivan -- the woman who taught her to communicate.
Abigail Breslin Pics
Abigail Breslin, center, poses with her 'Zombieland' castmates at a premiere on Oct. 10 in Spain. See what she's been up to since then ...
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