William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker opens on Broadway today – the first revival in nearly fifty years. A recent New York Times profile of Abigail Breslin, who plays Helen, revealed that the actors trained in Ohad Naharin’s movement language, Gaga, in order to prepare for the physical demands of their roles. Lee Sher, who cofounded LeeSaar The Company in 2000, oversaw their training throughout the production. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
One key to Ms. Breslin’s preparation has been Lee Sher, the production’s physical-training adviser, who works with Ms. Breslin and Ms. [Alison] Pill [who plays Annie Sullivan] for an hour before each rehearsal. An Israeli dancer and actress, Ms. Sher has trained the two women in the art of Gaga movement, in which performers tap into energies and emotions to develop a physical language that circumvents habits of communication based on dialogue. Ms. Sher said these movement techniques are well suited to Helen, noting, for instance, the crucial scene when Annie and Helen match strength and wits at the breakfast table. The scene runs to four pages of dialogue-free stage directions in the script.
“For scenes like that we have to help Abby’s body find a new way of being — the way she moves, the way she sits, the way she reacts to Annie — so that the audience will not feel so familiar with the ways that Abby’s Helen acts and reacts,” Ms. Sher said. “Abby, Kate [Whoriskey, the play’s director] and I want the audience to feel that Helen could do something unpredictable, wild or scary at any moment.”
It’s wonderful to see artists outside of dance embracing Gaga and recognizing how it can strengthen the body and raise awareness of conscious and subconscious movement. In preparation for the non-seeing, non-hearing role of Helen Keller and the other characters who interact with her, Gaga is undoubtedly beneficial.