New play introduces Helen Keller the woman/activist


"You rooted for her to learn how to speak; now hear what she had to say"

Dr. John Orman, chair of the Department of Politics at Fairfield University, says few people know the story of Helen Keller the socialist, anti-war activist, and feminist. Most people, he believes, because of the impact of the highly acclaimed stage and film productions of "The Miracle Worker," think of Helen Keller as "frozen in time" as a deaf and blind girl who triumphed over her severe disabilities to learn to communicate.

But that was just the beginning of Keller's story and Orman is bringing to life what followed with his one-woman play, "Helen Keller Speaks," which debuts at the Pepsico Theater on the Fairfield University campus on Saturday, March 14, with two performances at 4:00 and 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved by calling (203) 254-4000, ext. 2864. Proceeds will go to the American Foundation for the Blind.

Orman considers his play to be an outgrowth of his teaching. "We have been robbed of our historical understanding of who Helen Keller really was," he says. The play shows what this one-time Fairfield County resident thought when she was in her 30s, after she learned to form her own social and political views. Orman considers Helen Keller one of the top political activists to arise in America. "She was a socialist, an anti-war activist, a supporter of the International Workers of the World and a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union." He invites the audience to "listen to the real Helen Keller's words. You rooted for her to be able to communicate. Now listen to what she had to say."

Helping to bring Keller's story to life is New York actress January Lavoy who plays Noelle Ortiz on the ABC soap "One Life to Live." A graduate of Fairfield University, she has appeared in numerous episodes of "Law and Order" and was in the movie "War of the Worlds." She has appeared in many Off-Broadway plays including at the Signature Theatre "Home" and "Two Trains Running" which won the 2007 Lortel Award for the Best Revival. She holds a Master's degree in Acting from Denver's National Theatre Conservatory.

Directing will be another Fairfield University alumnus, Ryan McKinney, a professor of theatre arts for the City University of New York at Kingsborough Community College. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from San Diego State University. Ryan returned to Fairfield this past fall to direct and choreograph Theatre Fairfield's production of The Rocky Horror Show.

With this new play, Dr. Orman adds to his reputation as a Renaissance man with interests far beyond the classroom. The author of several books, he appears on television as a political pundit, does standup comedy, has run for public office, enters rap contests, and writes poetry and songs.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647,

Posted on February 12, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 215

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