MECHANICSBURG — Whether it’s Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife working alongside Sheriff Andy Taylor in the fictional community of Mayberry, North Carolina, or John Alexander carrying out the duties of police chief in the village of Mechanicsburg, law enforcement officials — on television and in real life — share the same role of protecting the communities they serve.
As the only daughter of the late Don Knotts (famous for his role as Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show”), Karen Knotts knows first-hand the admiration her father had for those who serve in the law enforcement profession, so when she was approached by Mechanicsburg resident Stan Oliver about bringing her one-woman show to Champaign County to help raise money for the purchase of a K9 unit for the Mechanicsburg Police Department, she didn’t think twice.
“Of course, my dad had a strong affinity for police officers,” Knotts said. “I’m so happy and proud that I can do something to help the Mechanicsburg Police Department in his honor.”
Since her father’s passing in 2006, Knotts has been traveling around the country performing her one-woman show, “Tied Up In Knotts,” in which she shares stories of what her father was like when he wasn’t behind the camera.
At 6 p.m. on April 15 at Mechanicsburg High School, 60 High St., Knotts will share these personal accounts in a show she calls “A Deputy’s Daughter,” an offshoot of her original show.
“(‘A Deputy’s Daughter’) covers some of the same ground as ‘TUIK’ but has a more intimate style,” she said. “You might say it’s like campfire stories, and I do focus more attention on ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’”
Oliver, who is promoting the show locally, said the Mayberry theme and law enforcement just go hand-in-hand, which led him to reach out to Knotts, whom he had met two years ago during one of her trips to Ohio. After checking Knotts’ show schedule and noticing she was scheduled to be in Marion on April 13, Oliver knew it was meant to be. Knotts also agreed and decided to extend her stay in Ohio.
Tickets to Knotts’ April 15 show are $10 for adults and $5 for students and children, and they can be purchased at the door, at the Mechanicsburg Municipal Building (18 N. Main St.), or from a MPD officer. All law enforcement officers who attend the show in uniform will be admitted for free.
Oliver said after Knotts is paid her performance fee, which she discounted as a way to give back to local law enforcement, all proceeds from the event will go toward paying for the MPD’s K9 unit.
Mechanicsburg Police Officer Nicholous Black, who is training to be the department’s K9 handler, will be in attendance to introduce the crowd to the village’s new K9 in training — Max. The K9 unit is expected to be put into active service before the first of summer.
Birth of the one-woman show
After losing her famous father over a decade ago, Knotts said, sharing stories about the man the public had come to love as the character, Barney Fife, was what she called a “no-brainer” and something her father was supportive of.
“I had talked to him before about my doing this show, and he thought it would be good for me to do,” she said. “So, I already had some of the moments carved out in my mind as there were stories he told which lent themselves so naturally to performance.”
To this day, people still ask her questions about her father, which has allowed her show to enjoy the success it has over the past decade.
“I figured this show would find an audience, and it has,” Knotts said. “I want people to know him as a person, not just the wonderful characters he played.”
Along with talking about her dad’s upbringing and rise to stardom, she also shares tidbits about her father that might not be as well-known to the public.
“For example, I remember listening to dad sing harmony with Andy Griffith,” she said. “There was always music and laughter in our house, and when I was a kid, I spent hours listening to an album Andy Griffith made which included him telling stories. Andy sang lead and Dad filled in the harmonies.”
As for what the public tends to want to know most about her father, Knotts said, people are curious as to what the man who played Barney Fife was like as a father. The answer?
“Dad built his career on portraying meek, nervous characters, but he did try to be a stern parent at times,” Knotts said.
Most importantly, she added, “He was just as warm and caring in real life as he was on the show.”
Additional show details
While Knotts’ “A Deputy’s Daughter” one-woman show will be the main event on April 15, there will be other activities and performances taking place.
Prior to the 6 p.m. showing, Oliver said, the Mechanicsburg High School FFA will serve its popular baked potato bar at the school beginning at 5 p.m.
Once the show begins, songs from “The Andy Griffith Show” will be performed by The Muleskinner Band, a local group.
The fundraising event will also feature David Browning. Also known as the “Mayberry Deputy,” Browning is one of the most well-known Barney Fife impersonators.
Oliver added with Browning in town, there’s a chance he “may issue a few citations to the crowd.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.