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Renowned playwright visits New York Mills

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If you've seen a new face in New York Mills recently, you may have run into what just may be the next big thing in theatre: playwright Krista Knight. With the help of the Cultural Center, Krista has had time away to focus on her writing and get some of her work done.

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You may also know her from some of her works. They have been shown in New York, California, Maine, Texas, Alabama, Nebraska, London, Florida, Ohio, and Australia to name but a few.

"Playwriting is the place I fit in the world I want to be in," she says with a smile. "I love the theatre. I don't think I would've been a writer of poetry or fiction."

Knight spent her early years as part of the "Hot Dog Theatre" in Portola Valley, Calif., which allowed children to watch and perform in each other's plays.

The church she belonged to as a child held musicals every year with adult actors. The experience was "early exposure to the epitome, in my eyes, of professional theatre" she recalled.

"My favorite musicals now?" she asked. "It's a tie between 'Assassins,' 'Sweeney Todd', and 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.'"

College Years

"As a child, education was always emphasized in my family," she said. She applied to Brown University and was accepted with early admittance. She felt comfortable, she said, as "Brown was accepting of artistic types."

"Everyone has something special about them. It was great to finally fit in, but in a way, I also missed being the quirky one."

"A lot of people have a narrative of not liking high school; I did but I was ready to move on," she said.

Knight started in neuroscience and switched to theatre and English for her final two years. The university, she said, has no course requirements and allows students to explore all their passions.

"One thing I really like about the sciences is the way you study and decipher the ways the universe works, " she says.

"The wonderful part of playwriting is you can create your own universes with each play and set the parameters."

She finished her Bachelor of Arts degree with her honors thesis in playwriting. Knight studied under Paula Vogel, a famous playwright frequently known for her work, "How I Learned to Drive."

It was with the help of Paula Vogel that Knight had her first production of her own full-length play. When Knight was in her last year of her undergraduate degree at Brown, Vogel invited Knight to produce her play with the graduate students in their theatre festival.

Knight has now since earned a Master's degree in Performance Studies from NYU, and is a third year student in a Master of Fine Arts program at the University of California, San Diego.

Switching Roles

Along with her own playwriting, she teaches "Introduction to Playwriting," a course for undergraduate students at the University of California, San Diego.

The best part of it, she says, is that some students don't have any preconceptions of theatre. There are many theatre majors, she says, but she also has students who have never seen or read a play in their life.

Knight recently spent time in Serbia on a travel grant from the University of California, San Diego to write and research Balkan Music in the rural town of Guca.

During her time there, a million of people swept the streets during a 50th annual trumpet festival. For 24 hours a day, bands would compete against each other or eventually fall into blended melodies.

Some Time Away

"For a writer to get two weeks away for some time and space is wonderful," she said, referring to the time that the Cultural Center in New York Mills invited her to stay.

"Jamie and Heather helped me feel welcome. They helped set up everything one would need artistically. Heather is absolutely delightful."

"When do you ever get time to spend two weeks in a town you've never been to before?" she asked. "What else could you really ask for?"

The first thing she noticed upon arriving was the lack of light pollution and the beautiful stars that grace our night sky. She's visited the Creamery for coffee almost every morning since her arrival, she said.

"New York Mills is a friendly place. Everyone's open in so many ways. I'm grateful to be here and I really cannot emphasize that enough."

"I must thank the Cultural Center for allowing me to be here."

A Mother's Love

"I wouldn't be a playwright if it wasn't for my mother Ginny," Knight said. "She always made room for art. We always had a space set aside for drawing, or a place to store costumes, or a bin full of mismatched instruments. I was encouraged to see everything, from Hot Dog Theatre, to the performances at Church, to professional touring shows in San Francisco," she reflected.

"As children, we always had to be doing art, an instrument, and a sport. Karate, ballet, dance - something in those genres. My brother Roddy and I took advantage of trying everything."

"Something I took for granted when I got to college was that my mom always came to visit me the second I needed her. Without hesitation."

"I went to college a long way from home and there were times I needed her and there she was. I felt as much support from her as an adult as I did as a child. I appreciate that so much now," she said.

The Present

These days, Knight is trying to learn how to surf with her friend Nicole. Nicole is a German nanobiologist who just received a professorship.

She loves hanging out with both scientists and theatre people. "One thing that's nice is that even when I'm not working on a play, that's the group of people I want to spend time with."

Knight is currently working on a new play this summer about a 19th century female lobotomist. She's working in conjunction with a pop/punk band and it may turn into a musical.

"We'll see," she said. "It's very early."

On a final note, Knight pointed out one of the flaws of modern thinking. "You don't have to be in New York to get noticed or become famous. Who else is going to tell the stories that only you can uniquely tell?"

"Being an artist isn't geographically limited. Everything you have," she stressed, "is equally exciting."

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