Playing in the Severson Theatre September 8 – 25 are two thought-provoking dramas, Gidion’s Knot and Trying.   Making their main stage directing debuts are resident artists Andrew Philpot (Gidion’s Knot) and Kitty Balay (Trying).

Gidioin’s Knot by Johnna Adams
Amidst the fallout from her 5th grade son’s suspension from school, a mother demands answers. What begins as a highly charged parent/teacher conference with Gidion’s reticent teacher soon develops into a revelatory confrontation that burrows under the surface of bullying, failures of the education system, and freedom of expression. Is Gidion the perpetrator, the victim, or the hero of this story? Reverberating with more questions than answers, this hauntingly heart-wrenching drama is sure to provoke deep feelings and promote vigorous conversation. It is a theatre experience like no other – bursting with emotional fireworks – while asking questions about parenting and education, and particularly, when is art considered dangerous? The play continually challenges your expectations with each additional nugget of information. Audiences will be hanging on to every plot twist.

Director Andrew Philpot calls this an “issues” play: censorship, the purpose of art, childhood innocence, and free speech. In addition, he sees it as part detective story and part Greek tragedy.

Gidion’s Knot premiered at The Contemporary American Theatre Festival in West Virginia in 2012 and in the following year it received the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for best new Script at the Humana Festival.

Polly Firestone Walker plays Heather, the teacher, and Elizabeth Stuart* is Corryn, the mother.

Scenic Designer is Charles Murdock Lucas, Costume Designer is Robin Newell, Lighting Designer is Tim Thistleton, Sound Designer is Graham Howatt, and the Stage Manager is Sam Burke.

“…asks us to consider questions about creative freedom and school safety, the power of art, and the origins of violence…” – The San Francisco Examiner
“…a taut 90-minute mystery that keeps us guessing about where to lay blame when children go astray.” – Bay Area News Group
” Questions about bullying, parental responsibility, tween sexuality, blame, over-reactive protectiveness, art, and freedom of expression lurk beneath…” – SFGate


Trying by Joanna McClelland Glass
This play explores the relationship between a cantankerous elderly judge in the last year of his life and his young Canadian secretary, Sarah Schorr. The story is drawn from the playwright’s personal experience working for Judge Francis Biddle, who had been U.S. Attorney General under Roosevelt and was named by President Truman as Chief Judge of the American Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

Trying is filled with wit and poignancy as two opposites are trying to understand each other. Shore is the latest – and coincidentally the last – in a long line of personal secretaries to the Judge. The two characters are at two dramatically different places in their lives – hers is a resolution to become a writer, his is to tie up loose ends.  Tension remains high as the differences of class between the two clash, and yet we see how they unexpectedly influence each other.

Director Kitty Balay said the play is about the power of words and the power of human contact. It examines the ways in which we measure our worth, be it education, wealth, or ancestry. And it finds two people at starting and end points in their lives who both find themselves in situations of isolation.

As the Los Angeles Times review point out, “The title echoes throughout the script in all of its meanings: exasperating, struggling, and litigating.”

The play premiered at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater on March 29, 2004 before transferring to an Off-Broadway run. It won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work and has had success at regional theatres across the country.

Under the direction of Kitty Balay, the creative team includes Charles Murdock Lucas as Scenic Designer, Robin Newell as Costume Designer, Tim Thistleton as Lighting Designer, Graham Howatt as Sound Designer, Matt Koenig as Dialect Coach and Aleah Van Woert as the Stage Manager. The cast is comprised of Peter S. Hadres* and Karin Hendricks.

“…theater goers will find nothing trying about watching this affectionate memory play…”
Curtain Up
“Exquisitely literate, moving, and compelling.”
Trying is a portrait of generational reconciliation. It is enormously bracing theatre.”
New York Daily News