Tuesday, June 07, 2005

THE FIRST TIME I went to the theater was in 1960. I was 10 years old, and my parents took my 7-year-old brother and me to see Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, playing Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, in the Broadway production of The Miracle Worker. Two years later, when the film version came out, with the same two actors, I saw that, too. And have seen it again and again and again over the years. And no matter how many times I have seen it before, when I see again that climactic scene at the end, with Helen and Annie at the water pump, when Helen realizes in one life-altering moment that her teacher's fingers tapping in her hand are spelling out a word, and that word means the water pouring over her hands -- it's as if I am seeing it for the first time.

That theatrical experience was one of the few events in my life that I can honestly call electrifying.

Anne Bancroft, consummate actor, the daughter of Italian immigrants, born in the Bronx, has died of uterine cancer at the age of 73.

She will always be Annie Sullivan to me.

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