Design: Emily Taub, Nancy Knowles

Photographs: Nancy Knowles, Elsa Voelker, Emily Taub, Andrew Frechette
Copyright Gyre Arts © 2016

A GIFT of MADNESS is two gritty creative women swinging fists at fate and thumbing noses at demons. A witness survivor of sibling suicide, Knowles engineers her own thriving while pondering how her mother, stalked by loss, pulled off hers.

“Home alone during World War II while Dad was in the Army in Burma, for four years my mother nursed her dying firstborn, only to bury her at war's end.  Weekly shock treatments while pregnant with her third child helped her to cope. A quarter century later Ma and Pa lost their youngest by his own hand. That split second changed my life forever. The last time I saw my little brother, he was walking out the back door with the dog. I was cooking dinner for the two of us when I heard the shot with which he took his own life. It’s taken me decades to be able to tell our journey from there to here, but I promise the resulting play is as entertaining as the subject matter is challenging.  
 
Madness begets art, just as art begets madness. Together, they release story. My mother and I represent a hidden population of witness survivors, each of us having experienced trauma in our mid-20s. In A GIFT of MADNESS, in Ma’s voice and my own, I confront stigma head on, as we indulge in art, grief, love, and laughter to transform our multiple family tragedies. The play explores my hunch that of the many gifts my mother gave me, the most important to my art, and hence my survival, could be a gift of madness.”  

— NK

We think we’re keeping secrets but secrets are the keepers of us. It’s about what we pass on; it's love and wisefoolery—two artists, a woman and her mother, choosing how over if.  After trauma, if you dare hope, the rest is strategy…

 
Nancy Knowles Ma Phoebe goMAD
Young Nancy Knowles Ma goMAD

A GIFT of MADNESS
is two gritty creative women swinging fists at fate and thumbing noses at demons.
A witness survivor
of sibling suicide, Knowles engineers her own thriving
while pondering how her mother, stalked by loss, pulled
off hers.

Nancy Knowles Solo Play A Gift of Madness

Graced with an “exceptionally beautiful” voice (Pittsburgh Post- Gazette), versatile artist Nancy Knowles lights up the stage with her ease, presence, and humor.
As a singer, actress, poet and visual artist, the multiplicity of Knowles' talents only serves to enrich each one. In her autobiographical play
A GIFT of MADNESS, Knowles showcases all of her art forms, from playwriting, acting and singing, to maskmaking and set design, spinning a powerful story through all of the senses.
 
Knowles’ solo shows have included both dramatic works and recitals of unaccompanied medieval song. A mezzosoprano,
she performs with Frank Wallace (guitarist, baritone, composer) as an internationally-acclaimed contemporary song duo. She has toured widely for four decades throughout the U.S., Europe, and South America.

Visit gyremusic.com to hear her many recordings.