Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-03-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Novelist's fascination with history comes alive on stage
by Sarah Katherine Bowden
2019-01-09

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Novelist Emma Donoghue has had a long and rewarding relationship with Regency historical figure Anne Lister.

Lister created a series of coded diaries that documented her love affairs with women while operating as part of the landed gentry in mid-1800s Yorkshire. Donoghue first read these diaries in the 1980s, and adapted the Englishwoman's life story for the stage while working towards her doctorate in 1990s Dublin. Her play, I Know My Own Heart, receives its U.S. premiere from Pride Films & Plays this January. The Irish-Canadian author, who identifies as a lesbian, credits her fascination with Lister for sparking a love of writing about history and historical figures.

"Anne Lister changed my life and career," Donoghue said. "I had just started writing fiction as a student, and I came across her diaries in a bookstore. I related to how passionate she was as a person, and yet how different she was from me. She was quite a snob, and I couldn't see myself in that." This mixture of relatable desire and an undesirable trait propelled Donoghue to publish essays about Lister, as well as write her first dramatic script about Lister's relationships with a few of her lovers.

Lister was nicknamed "Gentleman Jack" for her use of masculine dress. Although she found the sobriquet embarrassing, she was audacious in taking on romantic partners. She wrote in her diary that she would "love and only love the fairer sex." Donoghue found her boldness original. "I don't think it occurred to her not to hit on everybody," she told Windy City Times. "A lot of women over the centuries passionately held hands, but women like Anne Lister were rare, and they showed what was possible."

Lister even defied institutional conventions concerning the church. She took communion with heiress Ann Walker during an 1834 mass in Goodramgate, York, at Holy Trinity Church, which led to the ladies' conviction that they were married. Donoghue has visited Holy Trinity. The church has "highback pews that look like a chocolate box with the lid lifted off," and the historical event confirmed for Donoghue that the tension between public and private life was clear to Lister. "You can tell her diaries were written with an eye to the future," she stated. "I wanted to literally let her stand out, and be acted out. Anne Lister should be strutting in her boots across the stage."

Elizabeth Swanson, director of I Know My Own Heart for Pride Films & Plays, said she finds the play clarifying for the audience. "I think Emma did a really smart thing which is live in the question of Lister's identity," she said. "None of the words that we have today, homosexual, much less even trans, existed in her time. She is able to imagine for herself what she might want when there's no institutional or structural support for what she might want. The play is a 'What do I want?' story, rather than a 'Who am I?' story."

The play itself is split between dialogue scenes between Lister and her lovers, and passages performed from Lister's diary. Swanson has cast actors with facility for classical language, and she treats the diary entries as direct address monologues to the viewers. "This way, the conclusions live in the audience," Swanson said.

She also cast actors across a wide variety of ages, as stigmas surrounding age and choice in society have shifted since Lister's day. She cast Vahishta Vafadari as Anne specifically because the performer understood both Lister's taciturn nature and had the stamina to survive the marathon nature of the piece, given that Lister exits the action onstage only once.

Donoghue is perhaps best known for her contemporary-set novel about motherhood and survival, Room, which she recently adapted for the screen and the stage. But she has also written eighteenth and nineteenth century-set novels that often center around queer or marginalized women, such as Slammerkin, The Sealed Letter, and Frog Music. And she grew up participating in theater through weekly classes, so she understands the value of performance.

"I acted all through my teens. It was the most useful thing I ever learned, for the business of being a public writer" she said. "Actually, in the first production of I Know My Own Heart at school, I ended up playing Tiv. I had to step in and save the day. After every play I see, I think acting is the most thrilling thing there is."

She finds the gender play and heightened nature of theater a good fit for telling historical stories, and in particular, for telling stories of queer women like herself. "It's freeing," she stated. "It's great to know that there are women going through the same things as me, so there's solidarity across millennia. This lets you know you're from a tribe. You're not actually an ugly duckling. You're a swan."

Donoghue is happy to see the play mounted in Chicago, so that Americans can be introduced to Lister's life. "It's so lifting to get back into the theater," she said. "What I remember about the play's research process, is that it got me started on historical plays, novels and short stories. Anne Lister's work was the wardrobe that led me to Narnia. The past reached up out of that book and shouted like the evil queen, 'Make me famous!'"

I Know My Own Heart opens Sunday, Jan. 13, at The Buena, Pride Arts Center, 4147 N. Broadway. Tickets are available now at PrideFilmsAndPlays.com, or at 866-811-4111 and 773-857-0222.

Also, "Conversation with Emma Donoghue" will take place Sunday, Jan. 13, at 4:30 p.m. at The Buena. ( Windy City Times' Catey Sullivan will moderate the discussion. ) Admission is free, but reservations are recommended; call 773-857-0222.


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Renee Fleming stars in multi Tony winning musical The Light in the Piazza 2019-03-24 - CHICAGO ( March 24, 2019 )—John Berry CBE and Anthony Lilley OBE for Scenario Two are delighted to announce a new production of ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf 2019-03-24 - Playwright: Ntozake Shange At: Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. Tickets: 773-753-4472; CourtTheatre.org; $50-$74. Runs through: April 14 Ntozake Shange's death ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Herland 2019-03-23 - Playwright: Grace McLeod At: Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Tickets: Redtwist.org 773-728-7529; $35-$40. Runs through: April 14<] "When people ask ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Couples' eviction, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, dancer sentenced 2019-03-20 - A lesbian couple filed a complaint against the transitional housing facility they once called home after they were forced out, LGBTQ Nation reported. ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Hands on a Hardbody 2019-03-20 - Playwright: Doug Wright ( book ), Amanda Green ( lyrics ), Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green ( music ) At: Refuge Theatre Project ...


Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls 2019-03-17 - By T Kira Madden $27; Bloomsbury Publishing; 304 pages Anyone who came of age in the late 1990s and early 2000s ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW How to Live on Earth 2019-03-15 - Playwright: MJ Kaufman At: Chimera Ensemble at the Flatiron, 1573 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets: ChimeraEnsemble.com; $23. Runs through: March 24 Those ...


Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Dugan's Bistro and the Legend of the Bearded Lady 2019-03-15 - By Owen Keehnen $17; Out Tales, Publishing; 148 pages Bob Theiss contained multitudes—most under a completely different name. Known as the Bearded ...


Gay News

eta seeking executive director 2019-03-14 - The board of directors for the eta Creative Arts Foundation is seeking an experienced executive director with a strong background in African-American arts ...


Gay News

Ravinia Festival Experience Center, immersive-experience theater, to open 2019-03-14 - HIGHLAND PARK, IL — Ravinia Festival will open a major addition to the park, the RaviniaMusicBox Experience Center, later this summer. The new ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.