Stage & Dance

Actress learns how to navigate the world of the visually impaired

At first blush, Wait Until Dark is an audience-pleasing little thriller with a twist at the end. It also has good name recognition, having been made into a hit 1967 movie starring Audrey Hepburn.

But Bob Singleton, director of the Studio Players production that opened Thursday, sees another, higher purpose in presenting and putting a lot of work into the show about a blind woman forced to combat three thugs who invade her home in search of a valuable object.

"When there's a defined condition, there is a lot of preparation work that goes into understanding that condition," Singleton says of portraying blindness. "I believe in research and understanding where that character is coming from and bringing those things to a performance."

So does Sharon Sikorski, who plays Suzy, a recently blinded woman whose ex-Marine husband pushes her to become as self-sufficient as possible. Then Suzy finds that she has to push herself when a trio of thieves take over her life in search of a heroin-filled doll that she unwittingly took from a woman at an airport.

"She gets tired of always having to learn new things and figure out all of this stuff," Sikorski says. "She doesn't really have as much confidence in herself as Sam has in her."

To help Sikorski gain confidence in her performance, Singleton invited Linda Chung of the Bluegrass Council for the Blind, to work with the cast — Sikorski in particular.

"She helps people integrate who had a recent visual impairment," Singleton says of Chung, who is visually impaired.

Chung worked with the cast on a range of things, including how to make notes in Braille and how to adopt a defensive posture when under duress.

Sikorski says she was struck by the confidence with which Chung navigated the theater, which she had never visited, using her other other senses. "That's the way I wanted Suzy to be," she said.

Preparing for the role, Sikorski said, she learned, among other things, that Suzy required a sense of order — things needed be where they should be — to function well in her apartment.

Sikorski did some exercises, including blindfolding herself in her home and moving around the stage of the Carriage House Theatre, where the play is being presented, with the lights off.

The plot of the play incorporates aspects of Suzy's blindness without focusing on it completely. The thieves con her, in part, by playing on her disability, telling her they are police officers and friends of her husband, who is away on business for most of the show.

One of the con artists convinces her that the police suspect her husband of murder and have her home under surveillance. He tells her a police car is parked outside with officers watching her apartment, which isn't true.

Part of the fun and suspense is that Suzy eventually gets to use her blindness to her advantage in fighting back.

"I think it gets really scary at the end," Singleton says. "We really try to take the audience into her world, emphasizing sound and other senses."

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