Candy & George Hisert
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BAY AREA PREMIERE
STARTS January 31
- In The News
- Program Notes
Can you untangle Gidion’s Knot? A parent/teacher conference begins as a mystery with a mother seeking answers as to why her son, Gidion, has been suspended from his 5th grade class. The teacher is apprehensive until their discussion develops into a dramatically charged collision of freedom of expression, the failure of our school system, bullying and personal responsibility. Gidion’s Knot is a heart-wrenching, adult-oriented drama by Princess Grace Award winner, Johnna Adams. Published in total in American Theatre magazine and a finalist for this year’s Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, Gidion’s Knot is a visceral and provocative theatre experience unlike any other and sure to promote heated debate.
Runtime: Approximately 75 minutes. There will not be an intermission.
Disclaimers: For Mature Audiences. Please also note that from March 4th - March 9th, Julia McNeal will replace Stacy Ross in the role of Heather.
San Francisco Chronicle
Bay Area News Group
The San Francisco Examiner
EDGE San Francisco
The Daily Californian
JAMIE J. JONES* - Corryn
JULIA MCNEAL* - Heather (after March 4)
STACY ROSS* - Heather (until March 2)
JOHNNA ADAMS - Playwright
JON TRACY+ - Director
NINA BALL - Set Designer
MICHAEL PALUMBO - Light Designer
ANTONIA GUNNARSON - Costume Designer
CLIFF CARUTHERS+ - Sound Designer
ANGELA NOSTRAND* - Stage Manager
Johnna Adams is no stranger to controversy
by Josh Costello, Literary Manager
Gidion’s Knot premiered at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival in West Virginia in 2012, went on to be published in full in American Theatre Magazine, won a prestigious citation from the American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg New Play Award, and is now being produced to great acclaim in theaters across the country. The Washington Post called Gidion’s Knot a “particularly eloquent study of people caught between the competing demands of reason, morality and family… a narrative that is as elegant as it is chilling.” According to LA Weekly, the play is “a well-crafted and powerful experience – confrontational and thought-provoking.”
Previously, playwright Johnna Adams (winner of the Princess Grace Award) was best known for writing provocative in-your-face plays for small theaters in Orange County and New York City. Her plays explore subjects such as cockfighting, cat murder, and raising the dead. “You have to give yourself permission to write in a way that would horrify the people you love,” Adams says in an interview in American Theatre Magazine. Gidion’s Knot stays true to Adams’ roots while also telling a detailed, subtle, and harrowing story that achieves the kind of interpersonal intensity that makes for truly great theater. In the tradition of Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, Gidion’s Knot puts two fascinating characters into conflict with the highest emotional stakes. Given the strength of the writing in this play, it’s no wonder that so many theaters across the country are putting it on their stages.
The characters in Gidion’s Knot are a mother and a teacher, and the setting is a parent-teacher conference. This is already a fraught situation even before Adams starts ratcheting up the tension. It’s worth noting that the topics of conversation in this play reflect several recent events involving schools that have drawn national attention. This is also a play that is steeped in classical history. The title, of course, is a reference to the Gordian Knot, which Alexander the Great sliced through rather than untangle. The play references epic Gaelic poetry, including both its violent imagery and disputes over its authorship – scholars have concluded that the epic poems of Ossian were actually written in English by James Macpherson in the 18th century, despite his claims of having discovered and translated ancient manuscripts. There is a reference to Seneca, the Roman dramatist and advisor to the Emperor Nero. The classroom setting includes images of Greek and Hindu gods keeping watch over the scene.
Ultimately, all of the play’s up-to-the-minute relevance and all of its grounding in history would be meaningless without such a compelling story. The mother and the teacher, two strong and determined women, are caught in the most compelling kind of dramatic conflict. “My idea,” says Adams, “was that both the plays’ characters are trying their best to do the right thing. The play gives you permission to think and talk about things that we don’t think and talk about normally that are very important.”