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Dan Savage Turns Helen Keller Into 'Raunchy Drag Burlesque'


Reporter Misha Berson got to see Miracle!, Dan Savage's take on the classic Miracle Worker story of how Helen Keller, born blind, deaf and dumb, learned to communicate with the outside world.

Here's a portion of Berson's Seattle Times review:

Awash in Keller jokes, gritty repartee and sexually graphic (though clothed and wigged) routines, Miracle! is rather like a naughty kid trying to get a rise out of his uptight parents.

Yet it's also a messy, nostalgic paean to the old-school cabaret drag where male entertainers are padded, dolled up and spangly-gowned (by the laudable Erik Andor) to glam, snipe, bond and lip-sync to the Andrews Sisters and Gloria Gaynor.

Director-writer Savage, noted author and gay activist, twists the saga of the untamed, disabled Keller and devoted teacher Annie Sullivan into the taming of a deaf, blind and mute drag prodigy, Helen Stellar (Jonathon Pyburn), by butch therapist Annie (a strong Hannah Victoria Franklin).

The more ludicrous gags, as when little Helen stumbles and bellows in her pathetic act, score big laughs — and big winces. And some bits (undescribable here) are just gross-outs.

Berson also notes that a sign outside Miracle! both warns and boasts that the show includes "disgusting language," "simulated sex acts" and "vulgar, nasty jokes," all of which can make some pretty great theater.

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  1. Hah, Andrea Martin and Catherine O'Hara were funny there. Never had seen that. "Now HOW the HELL are you going to eat your entree?!"

    Posted by: MarkUs | Jul 19, 2012 1:37:34 PM

  2. Well, technically, we're all born dumb, but then most of us learn and become less dumb. But some, not feeling dumb enough, become born again.

    Posted by: DanO | Jul 19, 2012 1:49:04 PM

  3. Not surprising in the least: when one delves below the surface of Savage's rhetoric, a quite grotresque and hateful attitude emerges. The gay community is making a giant mistake in appointing him its spiritual leader.

    Posted by: patrick | Jul 19, 2012 2:10:25 PM

  4. "The gay community is making a giant mistake in appointing him its spiritual leader."

    Jesus H. Christ, that sentence is so wrong on so many levels I can't even begin .....

    Posted by: FML | Jul 19, 2012 2:30:09 PM

  5. Did we have an election for spiritual leader that I missed?

    Posted by: DanO | Jul 19, 2012 2:56:28 PM

  6. I used to think the good this guy did outweighed the bad, but it's increasingly clear that Savage is as Savage does, and to continue to support this crude, immature jerk only besmirches us all by association.

    Posted by: Shelly | Jul 19, 2012 3:52:52 PM

  7. Savage becomes more of an embarrassment and liability every day. Helen Keller jokes? Really? This from a man who counsels others for a living? I suggest that anyone who wants to ridicule two of the most extraordinary women of our recent history, two women who devoted their lives not just to each other but to creating a better, more loving and compassionate and understanding society for all people, ask what kind of sickness it takes to ridicule such truly heroic people. The story of Annie Sullivan is one that should inspire anyone with a conscience to believe in the power of human will to conqour disabilities and reach out to benefit others. Her ability to reach into the unimaginable darkness of Helen Keller's world when most others would have considered it a lost cause is inspiring beyond words and frankly, to disparage that is just evil to me. What's next for Dan, the Stephen Hawking parody? Utterly vile.

    Posted by: stranded | Jul 19, 2012 5:03:32 PM

  8. I honestly can't believe that the "It Gets Better" guy would write a play consisting of "Helen Keller jokes." Is this a hoax?

    There is something insanely inconsistent on the matter of empathy here.

    Is this what young people with sensory impairments have to look forward to? People who don't know what it's actually like to have the actual impairment -- f'real, not as a joke, off-stage, 24/7, as well as on -- making humorous entertainment out of it?

    I hope Dan Savage never loses his sight, hearing, or both. If he does, though, I'd like to ask him if it changes his thoughts and feelings about the play he's written.

    If I had to identity the #1 single source of evil in the world it would be: Failure to empathize.

    At minimum my opinion of Dan Savage is very different from what it was 15 minutes ago, before reading this story. Wow.

    Posted by: make good choices | Jul 19, 2012 6:05:07 PM

  9. It is incredibly offensive that:
    A. Helen Keller is being mocked in such a way.
    B. That the article itself is using derogatory terminology to describe not only Helen Keller, but the Deaf and DeafBlind community.

    As a minority group ourselves, we of all people should understand the impact of the language choices we make and how they can offend. Shoddy work on this post.

    Posted by: ASL | Jul 19, 2012 7:22:44 PM

  10. Classless, which is what I expect from Savage.

    Posted by: James | Jul 19, 2012 9:27:35 PM

  11. The word "dumb" may have shifted meaning in the last century or so, but its original meaning was most definitely "unable to speak", so people should just get over that. "Dumb animals" are called that because they lack the power of speech, not because they are stupid. "Dumbbells" got their name from devices used to gain the strength necessary to ring church bells, so they were bells with no sound. It would have been the term used when Keller was a child.

    Keller WAS unable to speak—that is, she didn't know how—because her illness took her hearing when she was so young, but she later went on to be a very successful public speaker and political activist.

    I probably won't see Savage's show, but it sounds like the parody is of the play/film "The Miracle Worker", and not necessarily of Keller herself, just like the SCTV sketch someone linked to earlier, which could hardly be said to actually be making fun of Keller.

    Posted by: milou | Jul 19, 2012 10:00:26 PM

  12. If Dan can make fun of the handicapped, where was the real compassion in "It Get Better's" victims? Seems the real motivation was for Mr. Savage. Just because you work at McDonald's doesn't mean you have to eat the food.

    Posted by: Jay | Jul 19, 2012 10:20:28 PM

  13. It's amazing how the most accurate comments are eliminated. The gay world is supposed to be so open. It's bull. I said if Dan doesn't care about handicapped people, his "It Get's Better" was ingenuine.
    No tattoo editing on this one. Hey, did you hear that Romney has been ahead of O for two days in the polls? That would be one heck of tsunami if it happens. Keep praying...

    Posted by: HaHa | Jul 20, 2012 12:26:20 AM

  14. Looks like Dan The Door Knob Licker is attempting to reach a new low.

    Posted by: iain | Aug 2, 2012 2:06:37 PM

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