It is not only providing rare and invaluable experiences, insights and material for both her acting and research careers but could see her perform the South Australian play in Edinburgh and New York later this year.
“During my early acting career in Vancouver, I thought performing Shakespeare to large houses was the height of success,” the Canadian-born actor and mother of two children says.
“Of course Shakespeare’s works always challenge the actors and director to be creative in asking the big questions which touch on the human condition.
“But working with (playwright) Emily Steel on this play was quite serendipitous, given the focus of my PhD research and my own interest in motherhood, women’s rights over their bodies and the choices they make for their future.”
As part of Adelaide’s close-knit arts community, Knight says she was privileged to participate in the creative development process which gave the Flinders drama researcher an opportunity to focus on issues that “matter to women like me”.
The play explores a difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy after tests come up positive for Down Syndrome.
“My Honours thesis examined the experience of performing another person’s autobiographic monologue, so it was a wonderful opportunity when my friend approached me to play this role,” she says. “I am now expanding this research with my PhD.”
The decision to undergo a late-term abortion was a hard story to tell, with a website and post-performance discussion helping to manage the audience response and inform the process.
The limited-ticket show created “quite a buzz” and was sold out before the season started.
Performed entirely in the swimming pool in the basement of the Adina Apartment Hotel in the city, Knight describes the play as an “immersive experience”.
“By sitting with their feet in the pool, audience members were given permission to drop their guard and perhaps place less judgement on the character’s enormous struggle.”
Directed by Daisy Brown, 19 Weeks won Best Theatre Award in the 2017 Bank SA Adelaide Fringe Overall Awards and received $5,000 as a runner-upfor the Made in Adelaide prize.
“By and large, the discussion was productive and we found the play touched on all sorts of grief, not just reproductive loss,” Knight says.
“Because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter, we provided weblinks and other advice through the associated website for the play.”
While looking for additional funds to stage 19 Weeks at the international Edinburgh Festival in Scotland later in the year, Knight says other producers are keen to tour the one-woman show, including in New York.
“It will be a great opportunity to showcase on an international scale some of the work being done in SA.
“I continue to be amazed at the vibrancy and talent in Adelaide’s arts community. It’s small but very exciting.”
As well as her postgraduate drama research, Knight is directing a SA play for the Dream Big Festival, Sally Hardy’s Gone Viral, about a teenage girl who’s dealing with her father’s imminent death.
Knight arrived in South Australia in 2008 and soon after began teaching Shakespeare at the Flinders Drama Centre. Part of her scholarly research has included the changing careers and performance capabilities of actors as they move through major life transitions.
“Becoming a parent changes everything in your life, but it can have a really positive effect on your capacity to be vulnerable, to feel a new range of emotions, and to carry that authenticity into new roles on stage.
“Flinders has had a great history with drama,” she says in The Investigator Transformed, a pictorial celebration of Flinders University’s 50th Anniversary.
“It’s the oldest drama training program within an academic structure in Australia and great people have come out of the program. It’s a fantastic legacy to be part of.”
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