FULTON, NY – Opening night is momentous on its own but a special guest heightened the excitement for cast and audience alike at the premiere of CNY Arts Center’s “Helen Keller” last week.
Fern Schwarz, a resident of Minetto, along with her husband, John, attended the opening performance as guests of director Nancy Fox.
“Fern contacted me to tell her own Helen Keller story and I knew she had to share it with everyone,” said Fox. “It was a rare opportunity for contemporary actors to speak directly to someone connected to the title character of the story. It literally brought the story to life.”
When Fern was a small child of just 6 or 7, her grandmother took her to visit a friend in Cleveland, NY.
The grandmother’s best friend also happened to be a friend to Helen Keller.
Fern was intrigued by the gracious lady who said “I’d like to see you,” to which Fern replied, “I don’t think you can.”
Helen assured her “Oh, but I can. You don’t know how I see.”
They politely shook hands and Helen pulled the child closer, hugged her and invited her to sit on her lap.
“She told me her story, how her teacher had taught her to see. She asked to put her hands on my face and gently touched my face, my eyes, nose, and mouth and gave me a kiss on the cheek. She asked who curled my hair and guessed it must be auburn in color. She continued to feel my arm and throat and back and asked how tall I was. She told me to stand and said she would guess! Helen asked if I had questions for her and I wanted to know how she learns to which she explained she has an extra gift from God that allows her to see with her hands.”
Fern’s memory of the great Helen Keller is of a gracious lady whose face she can easily recall to this day, nearly 80 years later, even though others have faded.
Helen Keller wrote to Fern soon after the visit, which has become a treasured memory.
The story of Helen Keller continues one more weekend, May 3 at 8 p.m., May 4, 8 p.m., which is Fulton Lions Club night, and May 5, closing matinee at 2 p.m.
This final performance will be signed for the hearing impaired.
For tickets or reservations, visit www.CNYArtsCenter.com or call 592-3373.