Shirley Knight is no stranger to Kansas.
Even with recent appearances on television's "Desperate Housewives," "House" and "Law and Order," the actress manages to return to her home state each year for the William Inge festival in Independence and other events in Lawrence, Topeka and Wichita.
Born in tiny Goessel in central Kansas and raised in somewhat larger Lyons, Knight said Thursday in a telephone interview that she enjoys her trips back here.
"I am very grateful to the people of Kansas for supporting me," she said.
On Thursday night, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius presented Knight, 70, with the 2007 Distinguished Artist Award.
And at 7:30 p.m. today, she will be in Lawrence to read the writings of Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. The readings will be in conjunction with an exhibit of Layton's drawings at the center.
Although Knight never met Layton, she has studied her works and writings. Layton started drawing at age 68 after taking an art class suggested by her sister.
"The class saved her life," Knight said. "She had two choices: Take the class or commit suicide."
Her drawings became a reflection of her difficult life that included shock treatments and an abusive husband.
"I am absolutely fascinated by her life and how she turned it around," Knight said. "She is such an example of 'It's never too late.'"
Tickets for the performance are $20, and are available at the door or by calling 843-2787.