Most Americans—and Alabamians—have derived their knowledge of Helen Keller’s childhood from William Gibson’s play The Miracle Worker, which was transferred to the screen in 1962. Indeed, Gibson’s play does draw from Keller’s The Story of my Life; it is also based on Anne Sullivan’s published letters. However, the 1962 film embellishes the famous scene in which Helen spells “water” into Anne Sullivan’s hand at the water pump. In his presentation, Brown will dissect Gibson’s play and highlight those parts which originated in Keller’s autobiography, Sullivan’s letters and Gibson’s imagination. He will also refer to the 1979 and the 2000 television versions of the play. Brown will illustrate his presentation with a short slideshow that illustrates Keller’s long life and with clips from the 1957 Playhouse 90 broadcast, the 1962 theatrical film, and the 1979 and 2000 made-for-television films to show how different directors and actors have re-imagined Keller’s life to suit their times and the demands of cinema. He will also read from Keller’s life and Sullivan’s letters to highlight the factual elements in Gibson’s screenplay.
Brown will provide his own slide projector, but hewill need the use of a screen and microphone.