Think of the time it takes to play a lead role in a play. Weeks, months, days and hours memorizing lines, learning to interact with other characters, figuring out blocking on stage and keeping in mind various other things that have to be acted out flawlessly for each performance.
Now, imagine how long it takes to play a lead role who is blind– and the actor is not blind.
That is the very case of Amy Hutchins, who will be portraying Susy Hendrix, the blind lead character in the historical production of Wait Until Dark.
To better prepare for her role, Little Rock’s very own World Services for the Blind–the only facility in the world that offers comprehensive programs to blind or visually impaired for sustainable independence– offered free Life Skills Training to Hutchins, which involved learning basic techniques of daily living and orientation and mobility training, said Tony O. Woodell, President and CEO of World Services for the Blind.
This included how to cook, clean, sew, iron and how to mark items appropriately for use.
“Ms. Hutchins was able to learn how to orient herself in a room by using senses other than sight and learn basic skills of travel for those that are blind and visually impaired,” Woodell said.
One thing Hutchins enjoyed about her class was observation– watching others at the WSB facility who are blind or are visually impaired go about their day. It was key to learning certain mannerisms and helped in learning different strategies to complete simple tasks that were critical to portraying the character Susy.
“My character knocks the salt and pepper shaker off the table and she has to find it later and [character] Gloria throws silverware all over the floor and she has to find it– she didn’t put them there so she has to find it,” Hutchins said. “So I asked, what is a good strategy?”
She said the instructor told her to think of the floor like grid pattern– think of the surface area like graph paper– you’ve got to go section by section.
“Visiting WSB has given Ms. Hutchins practical skill knowledge that will help her better represent individuals who are blind or visually impaired. With this practical knowledge, she can base her character in reality rather than stereotypes,” Woodell said.
For Hutchins, having the WSB in the area proved to be a valuable resource for her preparation.
“I just wanted to give an accurate representation,” Hutchins said. “It’s my job as an actor to figure out how to navigate the world without sight.”
Have a chance to see Hutchins in action when Wait Until Dark takes the stage from Friday, Oct. 24 and running through Nov. 9. Get more information and purchase your tickets at TheRep.org.