As a woman sits atop her bed during a very heated argument, she looks at the woman she just slept with and asks how many of them could there be? Millions of them walking around? But little did this woman know that yes, even in 17th century England there were lesbians walking among them. Following the decoded journals of the first recorded lesbian in history, I KNOW MY HEART is Anne Lister’s story of her relationships with various women.
Pride Films and Plays Love in the 17th Century
When asked about 17th century England, many people would conjure up images of lords and ladies a la Jane Austen. But as we enter the Buena Theatre, things are about to get much saucier than just Elizabeth wounding Mr. Darcy’s pride.
Anne Lister kept meticulous journals in her own secret code, and it wasn’t until 1980 that someone was able to decode them and discover her true story. I KNOW MY OWN HEART follows Anne through her love affairs with various women throughout her life and all the drama that came with.
No other woman could compare to the love of her life, Marianne. However, there’s the small issue of neither of them having any independence— what with being women and all. But as Anne waits for the day she can finally live a free and open life with Marianne, she bides her time with other objects of affection. Will she ever be able to live the life she wants? Or will she forever be stuck closeted in Shibden Hall?
Could Be Dropped in Present Day
Though dressed in long skirts, empire waist dresses, bonnets, and petticoats, the women in this play could have been women in their early twenties today. Sure, in today’s day and age most women don’t have to worry about waiting for a rich husband or uncle to die to have their independence. But political and societal differences aside, these women show the same drama and emotions any woman stuck in these impossible places would. They show unconditional love for one another, insecurity and nervousness when facing the social norms, and jealously over unrequited love. But most of all, they have confidence when showing others they don’t have to bend to convention.
Fiery Passion Envelops the Stage
Anne Lister is an interesting historical figure brought to life through Vahishta Vafadari. Vafadari shows a full emotional range. She goes from passionate and sure-footed, but then at times, through her inner monologues we discover her insecurities and fears.
This writer was struck by how all in the cast never drop their characters for a second. We catch their subtle mannerisms even when our eyes are not on them. We enjoy the changes in Vafadari’s looks when she gazes upon Marianne vs. her best friend Tib. We are drawn in as Lauren Grace Thompson playing Marianne listens with rapt attention to her lover in bed. And, Tib played by Eleanor Katz, is convincing as the caring friend who then flies off in a fit of rage and hurt feelings knowing Anne will never return her true feelings.
I KNOW MY OWN HEART is a love story that has these passionate women brought to life by a cast who feel—from this writer’s view-- as though they are completely enveloped in their characters. It’s an inspiring story for those willing to live their truths and become their own person. This show might not be the best fit if you’re not looking for a passionate love story, but would be perfect for history buffs and those who love plays with powerful leading women.
Lauren Grace Thompson
Now through February 10, 2018
Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3:30pm
With an additional performance Wednesday January 30 at 7:30pm
4147 N. Broadway
About the Author
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski