TROY faculty, students to present ‘Helen Unveiled’ at Helen Keller Lecture Series

London Brison, Brooke Whigham and Adria Ferrali star in Ferrali’s contemporary ballet, “With Tempest on Its Wings.” The performance is part of the Hel

London Brison, Brooke Whigham and Adria Ferrali star in Ferrali’s contemporary ballet, “With Tempest on Its Wings.” The performance is part of the Hel

Troy University’s Department of Theatre and Dance will shed an artistic light on the life of Helen Keller as part of the 22nd annual Helen Keller Lecture Series on Nov. 14 at Claudia Crosby Theater.

“Helen Unveiled: Activist. Visionary. Lover.” begins at 10 a.m. and focuses on Keller’s tragic romance with newspaperman Peter Fagan through words, dance and music.

“Helen Unveiled” begins with a dramatic presentation about this portion of Keller’s life, featuring the talents of TROY theatre faculty members Quinton Cockrell and Tori Lee Averett.

From there, world-renowned Italian dancer and choreographer Adria Ferrali and TROY dance students Brooke Whigham and London Brison will perform Ferrali’s contemporary ballet “With Tempest on Its Wings,” a dance performance inspired by the book “The Myth of Water” by Jeanie Thompson.

The title of the dance originates from a Helen Keller quote: “The love which had come unseen and unexpected departed with tempest on its wings.”

A scene from "With Tempest on Its Wings" performed at Troy University.
A scene from “With Tempest on Its Wings.”

The dance describes when Keller, then 36, fell in love with Fagan, a 29-year-old newspaperman who was her temporary secretary.

“While we may never know what actually happened between Helen and Peter, we do know she loved him, and even though Helen didn’t get to live out her love for Peter as a wife and mother, she gets to express it on this stage,” Ferrali said. “Through this piece, our minds can join together in that moment of performance, and with that effort, we will create that love as an existing love – one that surpasses all of time.”

Ferrali is the artistic director of New Art Dreams and a former dancer at the Martha Graham Dance Company and the Pearl Lang Dance Theater in New York City. She is a recipient of the Nijinsky Award for Choreography at the National Opera of Ukraine and has taught extensively at the Royal Danish Ballet, the School of the La Scala Theater in Milan, the Ballet Academy of Gothenborg in Sweden, the University College of Dance in Stockholm and the Boston Conservatory.

Whigham, of Mobile, is currently in her third year working toward her Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance. Brison, of Collinwood, Tenn., is set to receive his Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance in the fall of 2017.

“It’s an honor. It’s like a dream come true to life, to be able to bring this story to Troy University and on the stage,” Ferrali said. “Brooke and London are incredible. They are so talented and really willing to learn. Now, they are in their roles, and we are a team.”

The event will close with comments from Keller Johnson-Thompson, great-great-niece of Helen Keller.

Author Jeanie Thompson will be signing copies of her book, “The Myth of Water,” following the performance.

In addition, artwork by students from the Alabama School for the Blind and the Alabama School for the Deaf will be on display in the lobby of Smith Hall outside the Claudia Crosby Theater.

The Helen Keller Lecture Series is designed to promote awareness of people who excel in their chosen fields despite physical and/or mental limitations.

Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

At this year’s performance, an audio accessible format for the visually impaired will be made available to audience members at to help bring the contemporary ballet to life.

The Helen Keller Lecture is sponsored by Troy University along with longtime university supporters including The Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, the Alabama Department of Education, the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Alabama Department of Mental Health and the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.