Step Into the Cage Alongside the GIRL IN THE RED CORNER at Know Theatre

by Stephen Spotswood

July 26 – August 17

A warrior woman finds her fire and fights for her future.

Unemployed, fresh off a dead-end marriage, and searching for a way to take control of her life, Halo walks into a gym and signs up for mixed martial arts lessons. As she prepares for her first match, Halo realizes that life inside the cage and outside the cage are disturbingly similar. And that the only way to survive either is to fight.

Heart-pounding action meets tense family drama in the Know’s Season 22 opener, GIRL IN THE RED CORNER, by Stephen Spotswood.

Directed by Know Associate Artistic Director Tamara Winters, GIRL IN THE RED CORNER is an unflinching look at the grit and guts of female MMA fighters, as well as the collateral damage of life in working-class America.

Halo’s life is chaos. She’s lost her job, her marriage, and her sense of direction. With nothing left to lose, she walks into a mixed martial arts gym and asks for lessons.

Halo’s trainer thinks she’s a lightweight. Her mom and her sister think she’s lost her mind. But as she trains, Halo gets a glimpse of a way out of a dead-end life.

Yet as the date of her first big fight draws nearer, Halo discovers you can’t just walk away from where you come from. Sometimes, the world outside the ring bleeds through. And when that happens, you just have to stand and fight.

Associate Artistic Director Tamara Winters returns to the director’s chair for this visceral and personal regional premiere. Stories about women who fight their way through to a better future are becoming Tamara’s stock-in-trade – from 2015’s Hearts Like Fists to 2016’s Silent Sky, as well as last season’s swashbuckling Susan Swayne & The Bewildered Bride and the upcoming Lasso of Truth in 2020, about the complicated creation and lasting legacy of Wonder Woman.

When asked what it was about this story that demands to be told, right now, she said:

This is a story for anyone who has had enough. Enough of people making them feel small. Enough being made to believe that they should settle for the hand they’ve been dealt. Enough believing that where you were has to determine where you’re headed.

But it’s also a story that lays bare the lie that everyone starts from an even playing field. This play exposes the forces that keep us down and keep us fighting each other instead of fighting against those who would hold us back: the forces of addiction, generational poverty, gender barriers, forgotten communities.

And it’s also a story about what it takes to become whole again. About what happens when you rekindle the fire inside, put order to the chaos, and discover not just what’s worth fighting for, but who you need in your corner to survive.

GIRL IN THE RED CORNER features a cast of actors every bit as fierce as the show’s characters.

Starring as Halo, local favorite Tess Talbot makes a triumphant return to the Know stage. Audiences who loved her as feisty occultist Alicia in last season’s Mercury, as the titular genius Ada Lovelace in Ada & the Engine, and as Joseph Smith’s rebellious child-bride Lula in Listen for the Light won’t want to miss what happens when she steps into the cage.

The spellbinding Jen Joplin appears as Terry, Halo’s embattled mother, following her memorable appearance as Virginie, the “witch in the woods,” in 2018’s The Man-Beast on the Know’s Mainstage and as herself in her own one-woman show, The MILF Also Rises, at the 2019 Cincinnati Fringe Festival.

Know newcomer Abi Esmena comes out swinging as Halo’s tough-as-nails MMA trainer, Gina.

Longtime friend of Know Mindy Heithaus returns to the MainStage for the first time since 2016 as Brinn, Halo’s long-suffering big sister and mother to a 12-year-old whom she believes is becoming much too like her wildhearted aunt.

And rounding out the cast is Adam Tran as Brinn’s husband Warren and Gina’s trainer Kyle. Adam was last seen at the Know in our Season 21 opening Duncan Sheik/Kyle Jarrow musical Whisper House as the lovelorn-yet-stalwart Yasuhiro.

The incomparable k. Jenny Jones joins the fray as Fight Director to shape the physical world of this play, where the boundaries between the ring and the real world blur and the emotional arcs hit as hard and fast as the fists will fly. A Master Teacher of stage combat, k. Jenny Jones is internationally known for her contemporary unarmed fighting style, and is the only woman in the U.S. inducted into the College of Fight Masters by the Society of American Fight Directors.

Some things are worth bleeding for. GIRL IN THE RED CORNER runs July 26 – August 17 – only at Your Theatrical Playground.

Cast in Alphabetical Order

  • Abi Esmena – Gina
  • Mindy Heithaus – Brinn
  • Jennifer Joplin* – Terry/Nancy/Opponent
  • Tess Talbot – Halo
  • Adam Tran – Warren/Kyle

*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 & Lighting Designer – Andrew J. Hungerford
  • Costume Designer – Noelle Johnston
  • Sound Designer – Douglas Borntrager
  • Fight Director – k. Jenny Jones
  • Fight Consultant – Allyson West

Calendar Listing

Production:  GIRL IN THE RED CORNER by Stephen Spotswood


  • 8:00 pm   July 26, 27, 31; August 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10
  • 3:00 pm   July 28; August 4, 7

Where: Know Theatre of Cincinnati. 1120 Jackson Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202 in historic Over-the-Rhine.


  • $25 regular price tickets
  • $35 “Living Wage” tickets, supporting working artists in Cincinnati
  • $15 Rush tickets at the door 10 minutes prior to curtain (when available)
  • FREE walk-up tickets are available on Wednesdays, as part of Know’s Welcome Experiment. Advance reservations to Welcome Experiment performances are $10.00.

Tickets can be purchased by visiting or calling 513.300.5669

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.

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

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