ERMA BOMBECK: AT WIT’S END Brings the Humor of a Favorite Author to Life at Cincinnati Playhouse

PIP_At Wits End promo

Barbara Chisholm in Arena Stage’s production of ERMA BOMBECK: AT WIT’S END by C. Stanley Photography

One-woman show honors wit and wisdom of famous Dayton, OH native

CINCINNATI–Cincinnati Playhouse presents a hilarious, intimate chat with a national and hometown favorite in ERMA BOMBECK: AT WIT’S END. Adapted from Bombeck’s classic books and columns and directed by David Esbjornson, the show runs May 6 through June 11 in the Shelterhouse Theatre. Using the groundbreaking columnist’s own wit and wisdom, which gave a voice to suburban housewives everywhere, the play paints a warm and funny portrait of the woman who dared to ask, “If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?”

The play was written by twin sister playwrights Allison Engel and Margaret Engel, both of whom are mothers and journalists, who relate to Erma Bombeck’s work.

“As we researched Erma’s life, we were struck by the sustained quality of her writing, especially when she was turning out three columns per week for decades,” the Engel sisters said. “We were amazed by her discipline in finishing deadlines before her children came home each afternoon. Although she was a favorite guest of Johnny Carson’s on The Tonight Show, was a contributor for years on Good Morning America and was one of the most recognized and beloved women in America, she was not seduced by fame, money or Hollywood. She managed to be extraordinary by being ordinary.”

Erma Bombeck, a Dayton, Ohio, native, rose to prominence in the 1960s with a syndicated newspaper column sharing her insights about motherhood and domestic life. Bombeck was 37 and had just sent the youngest of her three children to kindergarten when she began her column. She wrote candidly about the messiness of raising children, the difference between the perfect American Dream life portrayed in magazines and the reality of suburbia, and the indignities of getting older as a woman.

Her popularity increased with additional feature writing in magazines including Good Housekeeping, Redbook and McCall’s; a series of popular books, beginning with 1976’s The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank; and later television appearances, including an association with Good Morning America that spanned more than a decade.

Actress Barbara Chisholm will portray Bombeck in this one-woman show. Chisholm previously played the role in the world premiere production in Washington, D.C. According to the Engel sisters, Chisholm “is such an appealing figure on the stage that audiences immediately are taken in.”

For Chisholm, playing Bombeck is the culmination of a lifelong admiration.

“For those who love and remember Erma, I think they’ll be moved and touched to learn how much grit and depth there was to her,” Chisolm says. “Erma overcame and worked through tremendous personal challenges. She used her celebrity to work passionately for passage of the ERA… I believe this play gives her a measure of respect and gravitas to add to the deep affection in which she’s held. There’s nothing trivial about the world Erma inhabited and wrote. Those who are not familiar with her will be astonished and amazed and appreciative of a formidable…and trailblazing woman.”

Prices for ERMA BOMBECK: AT WIT’S END start at $35; they vary depending on seat location and performance day and are subject to change. Tickets for teens and students are $30. Student tickets are just $15 on the day of the show. Plus, Sunday is College Night, with tickets to all 7 p.m. performances just $10. In addition to calling the Box Office, tickets can also be purchased by visiting the Playhouse website at www.cincyplay.com.

Hilliard Lyons is production sponsor of ERMA BOMBECK: AT WIT’S END. Artist Sponsors are TriVersity Construction and Jenny and David Powell. The 2016-17 Shelterhouse Theatre season is presented by Heidelberg Distributing Company. Season Sponsor of New Work is The Lois and Richard Rosenthal Foundation.Thompson Shelterhouse Theatre Season Design Sponsor is Allan Berliant and Jennie Rosenthal Berliant Family Fund.

The Playhouse is supported by the generosity of more than 40,000 contributors to the ArtsWave Community Campaign. The Ohio Arts Council helps fund the Playhouse with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. The Playhouse also receives funding from the Shubert Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts

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Special Events

  • ERMA BOMBECK BOOK CLUB
    May 1 and May 22, 2017, at 7 p.m. at Joseph-Beth BooksellersAs a part of the Playhouse’s inaugural book club and discussion series, we will dig deeper into ERMA BOMBECK: AT WIT’S END. Books can be purchased or ordered through Joseph-Beth. Discussion events are free, but registration is required in advance through the Playhouse Box Office at 513-421-3888.
  • ERMA BOMBECK MEMOIR WRITING WORKSHOP
    May 20, 2017, from 10 a.m. to noon at the PlayhouseAccess your inner Erma Bombeck with author Katrina Kittle, who will share writing strategies that will help you get to the core of your own story. The registration fee is $50. To register, call the Box Office at 513-421-3888 or visit cincyplay.com.
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