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Video-Opera | Parental Depression

Text: The Case of Denise - a video-art project on parental depression. Written in blue on a white text box. In the background is a page of a handwritten notebook.

A video-art opera on parental depression.

Based on BA Markus’s research-creation project, What Mommy Needs, this operatic scene tells the story of Denise, “a brilliant star of a girl who can sing.” Denise, the would-be star, grew up in the shadow of her mother, a strong Black woman – not only a perfect homemaker who could sew and always served vegetables with dinner, but also a successful physics professor. Meant to be perfect too, Denise instead grew up to be rather imperfect, or at least she perceives herself to be so and thus developed panic disorder trying to live up to expectations. This scene takes us into the center of Denise’s anxiety as she suffers panic attacks while navigating (an imperfect) life as a queer BIPOC parent with a very messy house. 


Markus began her project, What Mommy Needs, to highlight the pain, isolation, and trauma involved in parenting today.  For Markus’s initial project, 52 mothers from across Canada were interviewed about the struggles of parenting, revealing mental and physical distress and addictive behaviours related to trauma and isolation. Markus then created dramatic monologues based on the interviews. 


Composer Jason Noble, whose work focuses on meaning in contemporary music, created a vivid score that represents Denise’s world, full of music and wonder and suffocation both sonically and visually. Choreographer/videographer Bettina Szabo, dedicated to creating safe spaces for performers, directed the piece. J. Marchand Knight, voiced the part of Denise – fitting as their interview with Markus was the source material for this project. The group has a collective interest in seeing trauma addressed in art, bringing trauma-informed practices to performance-creation, and fostering empathy in our community. Together, they created the video-opera The Case of Denise.

Creative Team

Artistic director: Juanita Marchand Knight

Director: Bettina Szabo

Music: Jason Noble

Libretto: B.A. Markus

Dramaturgy: Bettina Szabo

Video Artist: Bettina Szabo

Costume Design: Bettina Szabo

Cast: Juanita Marchand Knight

Created thanks to the generous support of

Watershed Festival - Reimagining Music Theatre logo

where the piece was premiered in 2022.

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