Tiffany Knight explores a new way to tell a tale

Tiffany Knight interview by Jen Bush

Tiffany Knight is a classically trained artist who welcomes the challenges and rewards of projects with complicated subject matter.  She enjoys the storytelling aspect of her art whether it be through Folk Music or acting.  “I come from a more classically trained background and enjoy the energy difficult shows have to give. One of the reasons I joined theatre was the ability to become other jobs and people. Looking at the history, the characterization and creating it anew was always the most motivating behind it. I do the same with folk music, which is another outlet of my art– I was born with a leg abnormality which has kept me from being a Dancer, so musical theater wasn’t my main pursuit– Folk Music has a similar ability though, to take a crowd through a story and move them. I’d ideally love to work on a project that combined these or create something that harvests these emotions. S.U.N in the USA does some of this, which helped draw me into the piece.”

S.U.N. IN THE U.S.A BY MICHAEL HAGINS

SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 2PM

S.U.N. IN THE U.S.A. IS A STORY THAT LOOKS AT HISTORY THROUGH THE EYES OF AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN EVERYMAN KNOWN ONLY AS BLACK, WHO IS “KINDLY” REMINDED JUST HOW GOOD HE HAS IT IN HIS TIME IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA—FROM THE BEGINNING OF AFRICAN SLAVERY TO TODAY’S CULTURE.  

THEATRE ROW, 410 WEST 42ND STREET, NEW YORK

Through these series of interviews, the cast has consistently mentioned that this is an important piece of theater.  It is a work that must be seen to ignite persuasive conversations that may lead to enacting change.  Ms. Knight not only recognized that aspect of this compelling work but was also drawn to it because of the clever way it was written and is being told.  “S.U.N. In The U.S.A. is an important piece, reversing how the story is told. Too often we just want art that tells a difficult story in the context of rising above the adversity, and often I feel you walk away more patting yourself on the back then a call to action. I always loved Jonathan Swift’s, “A Modest Proposal,” as it was horrifying enough to shine a mirror in a face hidden behind a comedy. While this is not a comedy, I think it has the same ability to reflect a mask on the truths, and make people consider the reality of the world right now in America.” 

 Ms. Knight’s creative process entails crafting the character through research and building upon the character through collaborations with the cast.  “I like researching the character and creating their background.  In looking at the daughter I read up what I could on the life of plantation wives and expectations.  I also worked on narrowing where she was from, political and social culture and most importantly home. Going through the script I found the reoccurring themes and trigger words and built a better understanding of base objectives and then underlying motivations and then work on those goals through the piece. “

“Once you’re on the floor that changes on building off the moment from what the other actors bring you. I make sure to have a strong foundation to be present and work on being there within the reality you create together.”

 Sometimes an artist feels an added responsibility to present a piece with greater sensitivity when it involves serious or topically charged subject matter.  Ms. Knight strives to honor the work with an authentic performance.  “Comedy or dramas where it’s more about drama or action in a story to entertain has a certain amount of leniency within the piece. You’re focusing on your own interpretations and also what plays well to the audience. This is not pandering to the crowd, and there’s a weight involved that means you must focus on carrying that truthfully.  The language and action my character in particular uses means I need to understand the workings of why the character says it, and knowing you’re trying to create change. It’s also knowing that many people may be unhappy or not approve of the things they are hearing, but also remembering that’s the point. You want people uncomfortable and to walk away talking about it”. 

 The pandemic was brutal to the arts community.  Live performances are back but not without significant changes in the way people interact with each other.  “Everything is different.  There was a certain expectation of fun and fancy free attached to theater pre-pandemic but that’s somewhat gone now. There’s also more drive to get the art out, and new art… to tell the stories that need telling. Being out of work for 18 months, with no assistance or really any real understanding from the outside drained the community. Coming back after we lost so many and so much adds a heft to know you’re still there and still pursuing it. “

“It’s also different coming back without some of that closeness and comradery there before. You can’t be as close or go out or have all the parties. Focusing on just the art is a reminder that we’re doing important work, but that this is also a job– something I feel people forget too much.”

 Luckily Broadway is back providing Ms. Knight with steady employment.  After she helps to tell the important story in S.U.N. In The U.S.A., she’s hoping to find more productions of substance.  “I’m looking forward to hopefully finding other new works to join. I work backstage as a day job on Broadway, but with things still getting on their feet I’d like to find more opportunities to perform work that is important and has a chance to involve.”  

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