TAMPA — Theatre USF is presenting its production of “Gidion’s Knot” by Johnna Adams, which runs from April 9-19 at Theatre 2 of its Tampa campus.
It is a stark, gripping play that explores relevant themes such as freedom of expression, the failure of our school system and personal responsibility.
When a mother arrives at her son’s school for a parent-teacher conference, she seeks answers as to why her fifth grader has been suspended. The meeting occurs after the boy has taken his own life and the mother decides to keep the conference appointment anyway, much to the teacher’s surprise.
“The mother doesn’t know why the son was suspended and what was going on that would drive him to commit suicide,” said USF Professor Fanni Green, the play’s director.
We come to find out, Green explained, that the young boy had written a violent and graphic essay that he had passed around to other students in the class that the teacher found disturbing. During the course of the conference we find out other things, Green pointed out, such as though the mother may believe the son was bullied, it turns out that he may have actually been the bully. Furthermore, the mother finds out about other writings that her son has done and discovers there may be an issue about how her son may have been expressing himself sexually.
“All of these things unfold in this conference,” Green said, “and with a mother who’s never met teacher, a teacher who’s never met mother, and now a dead student and a dead son.”
Green, who chose the play for Theatre USF to perform, believes this work will open discussion about the responsibility of parenting and the responsibility of educating. As a teacher who is a practicing performing artist and is also interested in activism, Green affirmed that she is interested in bringing relevant, thought-provoking themes to the stage such as bullying, student suicide and the responsibility of education.
“I’m committed to always trying to bring something to the theater we can talk about and examine,” she stated.
A veteran writer, director and actor, Green has directed various area productions, including “the road weeps, the well runs dry” at USF and a staged reading of “Gidion’s Knot” at Studio@620 in St. Pete back in February. In front of the footlights, she took on the role of M’Lynn in American Stage’s all-African-American production of “Steel Magnolias” last year.
Green said since “Gidion’s Knot” is only a two-person play, she double cast it to give more students the opportunity to perform this work. Two sets of student actors will alternate performances with seniors Danielle James and Vanessa Watson comprising one cast while Selena Frey and Amanda Zappia comprise the other.
“I wanted something small,” she said, “I wanted something intimate and I wanted something charged.”
Green believes the play’s title may have several meanings, among them references to Gideon of the Bible and also the famed Gordian knot, which was twisted in such a way that it was impossible to untie. In the Greek legend, this knot could only be solved by a bold, decisive action like the one Alexander the Great delivered when he cut it with his sword—an action that Green believes the son’s suicide may mirror.
“I am so excited by the challenge of this play,” Green enthused. “I think it’s a very relevant play and I think it’s a wonderful play to give to student actors.”
“Gidion’s Knot” runs April 9-11 and 16-18 at 8 p.m. and April 12 and 19 at 3 p.m. in Theatre 2, USF Tampa campus. Tickets are $10 students/senior/active military and $15 general admission. Tickets can be purchased at www.arts.usf.edu or by calling the box office at (813) 974-2323.