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"Dragon Play" at Know Theatre Features NKU Sophomore

“In rural Texas, a teenage boy and a dragon fall in love. A thousand miles north, a woman’s fragile marriage is tested when her fire-breathing ex-lover arrives on her doorstep…”

Northern Kentucky University sophomore Kearston Hawkins-Johnson makes her Know Theatre debut playing a girl dragon in the appropriately titled The Dragon Play, an intimate and intense regional premiere by Jenny Connell Davis, continuing through Feb. 18.

Hawkins-Johnson can tell you in one word what attracted her to the Know play: “Dragons. Who wouldn’t be attracted to a play about dragons?

“Also, Jenny Connell Davis has a way with words that’s incredible to read, say, hear and digest. The script is beautiful, funny, intense, dark, metaphoric, and brings to your attention the universality of love, the consequences that comes with it, and the magnificence of it all.”

Her character, she says, “is a complicated creature, yet full of intense love and curiosity.

“I wanted to find the parallels between my world as a human and her world as a dragon. Also, to bring this non-human character to life and have a chance to explore the ways in which humans beings can relate to her and in ways that they cannot.”

Kearston Hawkins-Johnson and Josh Seiter in "The Dragon Play" (provided)

One of Cincinnati’s favorite actors, Torie Wiggins, is at the center of The Dragon Play, as the woman who has to choose between her mysterious past and the life she’s sacrificed everything to build.

Cincy Fringe Festival favorite and so-talented Paul Strickland plays her embattled husband, who must defend the life and home they’ve built. He’s been doing attention-grabbing work at Know since he relocated here a couple of years ago, including providing music and lyrics for one of this theater season’s best entries, Darkest Night at Gnarly Stump.

Connell Davis is one of many breakthrough contemporary playwrights who have moved away from American naturalism to geography that is more unmoored.

Hawkins-Johnson says there’s an excitement to that for actor and audience.

“Theatre does a great job with expanding people’s imaginations and sparking conversations. It helps to keep an open mind on what you’re experiencing to allow yourself to look at things from a different lens.

“As an actor, it‘s exciting to read and see new work from playwrights who go beyond what is considered ‘traditional,’ ‘realistic,’ or ‘natural.’

“It gives me a chance to question how I see myself in a character who may be, for example, a dragon who lives in a land past the limits of the imagination. 

“Plays like Dragon Play allows an audience to step outside of themselves and witness the world from a different angle, but also give them a chance to find a connection through it all. I'm excited to hear what people got out of it.”

At NKU, Hawkins-Johnson is looking forward to upcoming auditions for the biennial Y.E.S. Festival, the 18th edition “Year-End Series” features two world premieres ad running April 20-30.

The Dragon Play, through Feb. 18. Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $25, rush tickets $15 at the door 10 minutes prior to curtain (when available). FREE walk-up tickets are available on Wednesdays, as part of Know’s Welcome Experiment initiative. Advance reservations to Welcome Experiment performances $5. 513-300-5669 and at here.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
Photos by Dan R. Winters (provided)