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‘The Miracle Worker’ to showcase local talent

By Staff | Jan 30, 2019

Cast members from "The Miracle Worker" perform two scenes from one of the play's acts in the Scarborough Library Reading Room on Jan. 22. From left, Brad Toole as Captain Keller, Alyssa Lucas as Kate Keller, Warren Downing as James Keller, Daisy Mason as Hellen Keller and Emilia Weiss as Annie Sullivan. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Gabrielle Tokach may be best known for being the Contemporary American Theater Festival’s public relations manager. But when she’s not engaging with media or working to make sure the festival events will run smoothly, Tokach keeps her artistic abilities in tune by volunteering with the Apollo Civic Theatre in Martinsburg.

Her history with local theater goes further back than some might expect.

At five years old, Tokach had already caught the acting bug. Her parents watched as she began acting at home, pretending to be a fictitious character, based on which shoes she wore that day. When she wore her red shoes, she was Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” and when she wore her gold shoes, she was Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.” Her early love for acting led her to becoming involved in theater at a young age

“One of my mother’s friends says, ‘She has a very expressive personality, you should get her into theater.’ And so I was put into a theater summer camp at the Apollo,” Tokach said, mentioning her interest in theater continued to grow with time.

Although Tokach lived with her parents in Virginia, as she approached high school, her parents decided she needed to attend the public high school with the best theater program. For them, that was Musselman High School. Since Tokach’s father worked in Virginia, he continued to live there, while her mother uprooted her life to make it possible for her daughter to attend the school.

“My mother and I actually moved to West Virginia during the week, and moved back to Virginia on the weekend, to be with my father,” Tokach said, mentioning she didn’t know what she wanted her career to be, until she completed an internship with CATF to fulfill her bachelor’s degree in musical theater and arts administration from West Virginia Wesleyan College.

“While I love performing, I realized I didn’t love the business behind acting,” Tokach said.

After realizing she wanted to continue working on the administrative side of theater, Tokach earned a master’s degree from George Mason University in arts management. She was hired into her current position over a year ago, and joined the Apollo’s board of directors to support the organization that molded her artistic abilities for so many years.

During the Scarborough Society Art and Lecture Series on Jan. 24, Tokach discussed the play she is currently directing at the Apollo. “The Miracle Worker” is based on the life of Hellen Keller, who was blind and mute, the play discusses how Keller is taught to communicate and live by her teacher, Annie Sullivan.

According to Tokach, directing the play has allowed her to combine her love for theater with her appreciation for her parents’ early careers.

“Why was I so passionate about this? Both of my parents worked at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind in Romney,” Tokach said. “I’ve always been intrigued with the language and culture.”

Thanks to her parents’ expertise, Tokach said her actors have been taught to appropriately portray their characters. Along with this meticulous work, Tokach and her staff members have made sure the play is historically accurate, paying attention to often over-looked details, like props and actors’ ages and chemistry.

But what she is looking forward to most, is the premiere of the play this weekend.

“On opening night, the director just gets to celebrate and rejoice in everything that has been done,” Tokach said, with a smile.

To get tickets to see “The Miracle Worker,” visit www.apollocivictheatre.org/event/the-miracle-worker/ or call the box office at 304-263-6766.