Race, Gender, and Religion Collide in Know Theatre’s LISTEN FOR THE LIGHT

A World Premiere drama by Kara Lee Corthron
Directed by Tamara Winters
April 21 – May 13

In 1844 Nauvoo, Illinois, Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith rules all.
Or so he thinks.


Darnelle Pierre Benjamin as Eli. Photo by Dan R. Winters Photography.

Know Theatre is proud to conclude our 19th MainStage season with the World Premiere of Kara Lee Corthron’s LISTEN FOR THE LIGHT. This searing new drama follows the intertwined lives of a former slave, a rebellious girl, and the prophet of a new American religion in the tumultuous setting of Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844.

Taking place in the last days before the brutal murder of Joseph Smith at the hands of an angry mob, LISTEN FOR THE LIGHT is a poetic and unflinching examination of the clash between race, gender, and religion in our American identity.

Eli, a former slave turned devoted follower of the Mormon prophet, is charged with watching over Lula, a young girl Joseph desires to make his next polygamous wife. Lula awaits a sign from God before she will agree to wed the Prophet.

But tensions are growing between the Mormon settlers and the nonbelievers, and Joseph is running out of time. It’s 1844 and the Mormon enclave of Nauvoo, Illinois is a powder keg ready to explode.

KTC_Josh Katawick as Joseph Smith in LISTEN FOR THE LIGHT at Know Theatre - Photo by Dan R. Winters Photography

Josh Katawick as Joseph Smith. Photo by Dan R. Winters Photography.

Know Theatre Associate Artistic Director Tamara Winters takes the helm for this world premiere, and is thrilled to have the playwright Kara Lee Corthron in residence to develop this production for Cincinnati. Says Tamara:

I have been a fan of Kara Lee Corthron’s writing for many years, ever since I saw her ambitious and imaginative AliceGraceAnon in New York in 2012. Kara has a poetic sense of language that is well matched by her writing’s utter fearlessness – no punches are pulled in a Kara Lee Corthron play! Even better: she never makes it easy to decide who is the hero – her characters are nuanced, troubled, and utterly fascinating.

LISTEN FOR THE LIGHT is no exception – forget your preconceived notions about this moment in American history and who these characters might be, because we are going to surprise you!

Bringing those characters to life are three powerhouse local actors – Darnell Pierre Benjamin as Eli, Tess Talbot as Lula, and Josh Katawick as Joseph Smith.

But LISTEN FOR THE LIGHT’s demanding script asks them to dig much deeper than just one role – each actor also plays a collection of additional characters, bending gender, age, class, and race through movement and vocal characterizations to bring the world of Nauvoo to life.

Fans of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company will recognize Darnell, Tess, and Josh as beloved Company Members, and both Darnell and Tess took critically acclaimed turns at Ensemble Theatre this season, as well (Legend of Georgia McBride, When We Were Young and Unafraid). Their combined chemistry and nuanced performances are a perfect match for Kara Lee Corthron’s challenging and fascinating text.

KTC_Tess Talbot as Lula in LISTEN FOR THE LIGHT at Know Theatre - Photo by Dan R. Winters Photography

Tess Talbot as Lula. Photo by Dan R. Winters Photography.

Artistic Director Andrew Hungerford selected this world premiere to close our 19th MainStage season because:

This play is the perfect way to cap our “Once Upon A Time” season. It examines the stories that we tell ourselves and the stories in our history books, the stories that charismatic leaders tell in service of their visions. It is important, it is timely, and it’s the kind of play that takes your breath away. I’m honored that we’re the first theatre to bring it to life.

Join us April 21 – May 13 and discover a little-known and bloody moment of American history, where faith and freedom collide.


  • Darnell Pierre Benjamin* as Eli
  • Josh Katawick* as Joseph Smith
  • Tess Talbot as Lula

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States, appearing under a Special Appearance Contract.

Production Team

  • Director – Tamara Winters
  • Scenic Designer & Prop Designer – Sarah Beth Hall
  • Lighting Designer – Andrew Hungerford
  • Costume Designer – Noelle Johnston
  • Sound & Video Designer – Doug Borntrager

Listen for the Light is sponsored by Drew Gores & George Warrington, Dan & Fran Bailey, and The Warrington Foundation.

About the Playwright
Kara Lee Corthron is an NYC-based playwright and young adult fiction author. Her full-length plays include LISTEN FOR THE LIGHT (Know Theatre of Cincinnati, spring 2017), AliceGraceAnon (New Georges), Holly Down in Heaven (Forum Theatre, DC area), Etched in Skin on a Sunlit Night (InterAct Theatre, Philadelphia), Julius by Design (Fulcrum Theater), Time and a Half, Electric Persephone in the Scorpion’s Den, Spookwater, and Welcome to Fear City (Kilroys’ List 2016). Kara is also the author of the young adult novels, The Truth of Right Now from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, January 3rd, 2017 and Daughters of Jubilation also from Simon Pulse, publication date TBA. With cartoonist, Shawn Ferreyra, she’s collaborating on a graphic novel, currently called We Are the Shining Lights.

Her work has been produced and developed at places like the African Continuum Theatre (DC), Ars Nova, Atlantic Theater Company, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Berkeley Rep, CenterStage (Baltimore), Contemporary American Theater Festival, the Director Collective, Electric Pear, E.S.T., Haulbowline Theatre Group (Cork, Ireland), Horizon Theatre (Atlanta), the Kennedy Center, Labyrinth, Lost Girls Theatre (Miami), Midtown Direct Rep, Naked Angels, New Dramatists, New Georges, New York Theatre Workshop, The Orchard Project, Page 73, Penumbra, PlayPenn Conference (2010), The Shalimar, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference (Guest Artist, 2012), South Coast Rep, TheatreWorks (Palo Alto), the Vineyard Theatre, Voice & Vision, and the Women’s Project. TV: writer for NBC’s KINGS (2008-2009).

Calendar Listing

  • Production: LISTEN FOR THE LIGHT, a world premiere by Kara Lee Corthron
  • When:
    8:00pm  April 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29; May 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13
    3:00pm  April 23, 30**; May 7
    **A pre-show brunch is available on this date with purchase of $35 “Brunch + Show” tickets in advance. Deadline for brunch reservation is April 24. Brunch provided by Water Tower Fine Wines
  • Where:
    Know Theatre of Cincinnati. 1120 Jackson Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.
    In historic Over-the-Rhine.
  • Tickets:
    $25 regular Price
    $15 Rush tickets at the door 10 minutes prior to curtain (when available)
    FREE walk-up tickets available on Wednesdays, as part of Know’s Welcome Experiment initiative. Advance reservations to Welcome Experiment performances are $5.00.

    Tickets can be purchased by visiting knowtheatre.com or calling 513.300.5669 (KNOW).

Know Theatre is Cincinnati’s Theatrical Playground. The Know showcases unexpected voices, new works, and plays that embrace the inherent theatricality of the live experience. Know Theatre seeks to be a place where artists and audiences feel welcome to take artistic risks, creating work that is cutting edge and accessible.

Know Theatre’s work is made possible, in part, by the generosity of community contributions to the ArtsWave Campaign.

The Ohio Arts Council helps fund Know Theatre with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

Know Theatre is also supported by The Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, helping to change our communities for the better through collaboration and innovation, and the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, which provides a simple, powerful, and highly personal approach to giving.

Additional support for Listen for the Light was provided by the Josephine Schell Russell Charitable Trust, PNC Bank, Trustee and the Louise Taft Semple Foundation

Know Theatre is a member of Theatre Communications Group and an Associate member of the National New Play Network.

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