Shirley Knight, right, is shown in a scene from "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" with Maggie Smith and Fionnula Flanagan. Knight, a WSU alumna, will be on campus for Premier Day.
Photo: Courtesy
Shirley Knight, Michael Downs returning to WSU for Premier Day
Apr 30, 2008 10:52 AM | Print

Performance students from area high schools and Wichita State University will have a chance to be inspired by nationally renowned actress Shirley Knight and designer Michael Downs during Performing Arts Premier Day.

Events are from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Friday, May 2, in Wilner Auditorium on the WSU campus.

Then, from noon-3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3, a film showing and sidewalk cement ceremony will honor Knight at Warren Theatre East, 11611 E. 13th St. in Wichita.

Friday events are free and also open to the general public. Saturday's events, two films and the ceremony, cost $10.

The events are sponsored by the School of Performing Arts theatre program and are being underwritten by Warren Theatres and other donors.

Friday's celebrity workshops and demonstrations will feature Knight, an Emmy and Tony award-winning actress seen recently on television's "Desperate Housewives," and Michael Downs, a professional scenery and lighting designer who has worked all over the world. Both Knight and Downs are WSU alumni.

Downs' workshop will begin with seating in Wilner at 8:30 a.m., followed by introductions at 9 a.m. Including a snack break, it will end at approximately 11:30 a.m.

Knight's workshop will run from 1-2:20 p.m., break for about 20 minutes and resume for questions from the audience from 2:45-3:30 p.m.

Saturday's events will honor Knight with showings of two of her films, at noon and at 12:30 p.m. "Sweet Bird of Youth," with Paul Newman, earned Knight her second Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. The other film is "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," starring Maggie Smith, James Garner, Ellen Burstyn and Sandra Bullock. Knight will answer questions after each film.

At 3 p.m. Knight will be the first inductee to the Warren Theatres' "Sidewalk Walk of Fame" as her handprints and signature go into wet cement for permanent display in front of the Warren Theatre East.

Both professionals have participated in Premier Day events in the past. Besides his ties to WSU, Downs attended Wichita High School Southeast, studying under then drama coach Tom Frye, who now teaches theater at WSU.

"Michael is a veteran environments designer and creative director," said Frye. "His experience spans 26 years, 42 of the 50 United States, 38 nations and more than 450 projects. Michael is a creative hybrid. He brings inventive ideas from the very beginning of any creative process - supporting strategic ideation with fresh, unexpected approaches to bring dimension to a brand, a story, an idea."

Downs has designed sets for the Boston Conservatory of Music, Salt Lake City Opera, Boston University of Theatre, New York City Ballet, Boston Lyric Opera, "Grease" South American Tour, "Crazy for You" European Tour, Lake George Opera Festival and the Berkshire Theatre Festival, among other projects. He has also received an Emmy nomination for his work.

With a long career such as Knight's, it's hard to know where to start, Frye said.

A native of Lyons, Knight also earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress for "Dark at the Top of the Stairs," and won the Tony Award for "Kennedy's Children." She is a three-time Emmy Award winner and holds a Golden Globe Award.

She has had guest roles in "NYPD Blues," "Thirtysomething" and "ER," and received an Emmy nomination for best guest actress on "Desperate Housewives." Her movies also include "As Good as it Gets," among many others.

Tickets go on sale Wednesday, April 30, at the Warren Theatre. Seating is limited, so Frye advises getting tickets early. For more information, call Frye at (316) 978-6667 or cell phone (917) 597-9477.

For more information, contact Tom Frye, instructor of theater, School of Performing Arts, (316) 978-6667 or cell (917) 597-9477.
Created on Apr 30, 2008 10:52 AM; Last modified on Apr 30, 2008 2:52 PM
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