In a series of interviews with the cast of The Miracle Worker at Rockville Little Theatre, meet Heather Andrews.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on the stage before. What roles did you play in these shows?
Heather: I moved to the area after graduating from the University of Montevallo in Alabama in 2001. A few of my favorite roles include: Julia in Birds of Paradise (Kensington Arts Theatre), Kickline Dancer in Hexagon’s 2003 and 2006 shows, Roz in Moon Over Buffalo (Montgomery Playhouse), Kate in The Pirates of Penzance (The Arlington Players), Karen in Dinner with Friends (Montgomery Playhouse), and Mrs. Paroo in The Music Man (with my daughter Helena in the chorus). Most recently, I appeared as Marcie in a staged reading of Together Again for the First Time, an original play with music by Mark Steimer, for Rockville Little Theatre.
Why did you want to be part of the cast of The Miracle Worker?
When the original actress cast as Kate Keller was unable to do the show, I was called in with a few other actresses to audition for the role. I had worked with Laura before on The Music Man and really enjoyed the experience, and this is a family-friendly show where my daughter could sit in the room during rehearsals, so of course I jumped at the opportunity.
Who do you play in the show? How do you relate to him or her? What traits do you share? Does this character remind you of a similar character that you have played before?
I play Kate Keller, Helen’s mother, in the show. When my daughter, Helena, was three months old she had a bad case of pneumonia. While Helena fully recovered and is very healthy, it was very painful to see my daughter going through this and I can understand Kate’s fear and anxiety that her daughter will not get well after her illness as an infant. My daughter and I are extremely close, so it’s agonizing for me to imagine not being able to communicate with my her. I feel that Kate is desperate to have that connection again that she had with Helen before Helen’s illness and worries about what will become of her daughter as she gets older… as all mother’s do.
Both Kate and I have head-strong and extremely bright daughters who are a handful at times. Where Helen uses physical means to communicate her frustrations, my daughter uses her ability to debate. So, especially after a long day, I can understand Kate’s weariness and tendency to let Helen have what she wants instead of continuing to fight her. Standing your ground can be difficult when you’re weary.
What is The Miracle Worker about from the point of view of your character?
For Kate, The Miracle Worker is about a mother’s struggle to reconnect with, and save, her daughter. Kate essentially lost her first-born when she could no longer communicate with her. She doesn’t know how to get through to her, and she’s willing to do anything to get her back. Not only for her own needs, but because she worries about the harm that may come to her daughter as she grows up if she is unable to communicate. Without a means of communication, Helen would always be at the will of the people around her. And, not all people treat those who can’t stand up for themselves kindly.
What challenges have you had preparing for the role, and how did director Laura Andruski help you through these challenges? What was the best advice she gave you on how to play your role?
There is one scene where it’s taken me a while to get there emotionally. Laura and I have talked about the scene and she keeps pushing me to take it further and letting me know that if it’s too much she’d let me know.
What is your favorite line or lines that your character says, and what is your favorite line that someone else says in the show?
My favorite line my character says is, “How empty the house is tonight.” It’s a sad line, but hits close to home as a mother whose daughter is sometimes not in the house. It is empty without her.
My favorite line someone else says is Annie Sullivan’s, “Mrs. Keller, I know teaching her is bound to be painful, to everyone. I know it hurts to watch, but she’ll live up to what you demand of her. Nothing more.” This is true for everyone, even ourselves.
What does The Miracle Worker have to say to today’s audiences?
Sometimes one person can help us unlock what’s hidden inside us and let the person we truly are out for the world to see. And, maybe you are that person for someone else.
If you could change what happens to your character, what would you like to see happening to your character at the end of the play?
The ending of the play is bittersweet for Kate. Finally, her daughter awakens, she can now communicate with her, yet she now seeks her teacher over her mother. I wish she wanted to communicate with her mother more.
Why should local theatergoers come and see The Miracle Worker?
The acting is superb. I am very fortunate to be working with a group of fearless actors who bring out the best in each other.
What advice would you give a young actor who is preparing to play your role in his/her school production of The Miracle Worker?
One of the best conversations I had about this play was with my daughter, who asked me how I would feel if she were Helen and what I would do to help her. Think about how you would feel if Helen were your daughter. Talk to your parents about how they would feel if Helen were you.
What’s next for you on the stage?
Doing shows can sometimes be difficult as a single parent, so we shall see what I’m able to do next. That said, I do hope to be back onstage with my daughter sometime soon.
The Miracle Worker plays on weekends from February 3 through 12, 2017 at Rockville Little Theatre performing at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 314-8690 or purchase them online.
Interview: Meet the Cast of ‘The Miracle Worker’ at Rockville Little Theatre. Part 1: Meredith Abramson.
Interview: Meet the Cast of ‘The Miracle Worker’ at Rockville Little Theatre. Part 2: Lena Winter.
Interview: Meet the Cast of ‘The Miracle Worker’ at Rockville Little Theatre. Part 3: Brian Lyons-Burke.
Interview: Meet the Cast of ‘The Miracle Worker’ at Rockville Little Theatre. Part 4: Jordan Clifford.
Review: ‘The Miracle Worker’ at Rockville Little Theatre, by Susan Brall.