Playwright William Gibson, whose “The Miracle Worker” earned three Tonys with the true story of the deaf-blind Helen Keller’s rescue from a world of ignorance, died Nov. 25 in Stockbridge, Mass. He was 94.
Gibson wrote a dozen plays, including the Tony-winning “Two for the Seesaw,” but would be forever known for “The Miracle Worker.” First written for television, the story of a young Keller forging a relationship with her teacher, Annie Sullivan, made its Broadway debut in 1959.
The production, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Anne Bancroft and 12-year-old Patty Duke, earned Tonys in 1960 for best play, best actress (Bancroft) and best director. It was made into a movie in 1962, bringing Academy Awards for Bancroft, as best actress, and Duke, best supporting actress, and Oscar nominations for Penn and Gibson.
The 1958 “The Miracle Worker” came a year after Gibson’s first professionally produced play, “Two for the Seesaw,” which brought Bancroft her first Tony and also nominations for best play and best director (Penn.)
Gibson garnered another Tony nomination in 1965 as co-author of “Golden Boy,” a musical version of the play by Clifford Odets.
Gibson’s last Broadway play was “Golda’s Balcony,” a one-woman show starring Tovah Feldshuh as Israeli prime minister Golda Meir during one of her most difficult times — the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Gibson was born in the Bronx, New York and studied creative writing at City College.
His first moneymaking piece was a short story published in Esquire for $150 during the 1930s. At the suggestion of his agent, Gibson began writing for the stage. He wrote five plays while honing his skills at the Topeka Civic Theater in Kansas, then returned to New York and started work on “Two for the Seesaw,” which ran for more than 700 performances in New York.
Nearing 80 when Gibson’s play was written, Keller was initially dubious about the idea but later had a positive opinion about it, according to the book “Helen Keller: A Life” by Dorothy Herrmann.
— Associated Press