HEART 15.jpg

I Know My Own Heart by Emma Donoghue

Pride Films & Plays


Photo Credit: Katie Stanley

Inspired by the secret coded diaries of  Yorkshire gentlewoman Anne Lister, I Know My Own Heart subverts all the conventions of a Regency Romance. Teasing out the entangled lives of Lister (nicknamed 'Gentleman Jack') and three of her many lovers, this play explores the choices women make in times of limits and prohibitions.

I Know My Own Heart  was a Jeff Recommended production.

I Know My Own Heart was a Jeff Recommended production.


Creative Team

Playwright: Emma Donoghue

Director: Elizabeth Swanson

Producer: Paul Cook

Stage Manager: Corey Bradberry

Intimacy Choreographer: Sarah Scanlon

Assistant Director: Melanie Thompson

Lighting Designer: Blake Cordell

Prop Designer: Jonathan Berg-Einhorn

Sound Designer: Blake Cordell

Scenic Painter: Elyse Balogh

Dialect Coach: Vahishta Vafadari


Jessie Ellingsen - Nancy Brown

Eleanor Katz - Isabella (Tib) Norcliff

Lauren Grace Thompson - Marianne Lawton

Vahishta Vafadari - Anne Lister

Sonia Goldberg - u/s Anne, Tib

Liz Weiner - u/s Marianne, Nancy



Director Elizabeth Swanson delivers a poignant and warm tapestry of desire and frustration, moving a text-heavy piece with quick scene changes, and clever use of space … What this production portrays so clearly is the acute pain that comes from living, and loving, in a world that cannot imagine you existing in it. Donoghue has mined questions of erasure, identity, and desire from the story of Anne Lister, someone who perhaps considered herself utterly unique, and therefore quite alone. Swanson and her fantastic team tackle Donoghue’s questions head-on with fiery determination, and Chicago is all the warmer for it.

--Lucas Carcia, Rescripted

...An intellectual accomplishment...I Know My Own Heart escapes its stuffy collars and labyrinthian complications of relationships altogether and depicts the joys and solidarity of 19th-century women enjoying each other's company, having an eye only for the present.

--Dan Jakes, Chicago Reader

...A simultaneously funny and tense look at how real life is conducted under the strict gaze of 19th-century moral code. The artistic team is intent on capturing rebellious moments that are disguised as innocent female friendship but are practically bursting with love, jealousy, and longing.

...Director Elizabeth Swanson pulls off the impressive feat of making the staging compelling and cohesive from every angle.  

--Sean Margaret Wagner, Theatre By Numbers

...An intimate and intense production...directed with care and feeling by Elizabeth Swanson.

--Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times

In a polished, surprisingly provocative production, Emma Donoghue’s US theatrical premiere has been beautifully directed in Chicago by Elizabeth Swanson and stunningly enacted by a cast of four talented young actresses.

--Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review