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CU play ‘Sugar Wife’ portrays horrors of slavery

November 12, 2021
Sugar Wife
Students in Mark Franchino's graphic design class created the "Sugar Wife" poster as part of their coursework.

Clarion University theatre will present “Sugar Wife” Nov. 17-21 in Marwick-Boyd Little Theatre.

The play tells the story of a Quaker woman living in Dublin, Ireland, in 1850, who uses her husband's considerable wealth to promote charitable causes, including helping the city's poor and raising money to support the abolition of slavery in the Americas. When they decide to host a free woman of color from the United States and her companion to speak to the horrors of slavery, what they learn from her turns their world upside down. Engrossing and unnerving, “The Sugar Wife” is a historical drama with clear resonance for the present.

The play features Seth A. Hartwell of Mercer as Alfred Darby, Shelby Hostetler of Summerhill as Hannah Tewkley, Jenna Joseph of Pittsburgh as Sarah Worth, Jessye Smith of Centre Hall as Martha Ryan and Caleb Thompson of Shippenville as Samuel Tewkley. Aae Hernan of Johnstown, Mary Jones of Greenville and Natalie Thomas of Harrisburg are understudies.

Following the Nov. 19 performance will be a discussion forum featuring an interdisciplinary panel of Clarion University scholars and student representatives from campus groups Black Lives Matter and Black Student Union who will discuss the play, the histories it contains, and its relevancy for the Clarion community. Faculty panelists and their areas of expertise include: Dr. Joseph Croskey, Africana studies; Dr. Jeffrey Diamond, Transatlantic Empire; Dr. Brian Roberts, African American literature and culture; and Dr. Deborah Sarbin, Irish literature and culture. Student panelists are: Nia Latham of Monroeville, president of Black Student Union; Sara Weaver of Cranberry, president of Sociology Club; and Antronice Wilson of Pittsburgh, president of Black Lives Matter (CU chapter).

Serving as dramaturg in addition to panelist, Roberts provided scholarly insight and personal perspective to the cast, designers and director Nic Barilar.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Nov. 17-20 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 21. Tickets are available online at The show is not recommended for children. Masks are required in all university buildings.

Last Updated 11/12/21