ERMA BOMBECK: AT WIT'S END is Coming to Cleveland Play House This Summer

The production will run from July 29 through August 20, 2023.

By: Jun. 22, 2023
ERMA BOMBECK: AT WIT'S END is Coming to Cleveland Play House This Summer
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Cleveland Play House will present the Suburban Outlaw production of Erma Bombeck: At Wit's End, a quick-witted, uplifting story recounting the life of America columnist and humorist, Erma Bombeck. Running from July 29 through August 20, 2023 in the Outcalt Theater, the heart-warming, humorous biographical play is written by Chagrin Falls natives, Allison Engel and Margaret Engel, starring film, television, and stage actress, Pam Sherman, as the nationally syndicated columnist, Erma Bombeck. Tickets are available at or by calling (216) 241-6000.

One of America's most beloved humorists, Erma Bombeck was widely known as, "the woman who made women laugh." Equal parts wife, mother, daughter, and "domestic demigoddess," she gave voice to the everyday joys and struggles faced by women of all ages. Written by twin sister playwrights Allison Engel and Margaret Engel from Chagrin Falls, the play draws its title from Bombeck's popular "At Wit's End" nationally syndicated column, which was published in 900 newspapers nationwide. The story recounts the voice of a generation of unheard homemakers who elevated their joys and struggles to a platform where they could be seen and heard. A story about an equal rights activist known for telling tough truths and finding humor in them, Erma Bombeck: At Wit's End celebrates a remarkable woman who reminded us all how to embrace whatever life throws at us with grace.

Bombeck became known by many names, including "America's Favorite Housewife," "The Socrates of the Ironing Board," and even an "Accidental Feminist" after becoming involved in the movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment alongside feminist icons Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Liz Carpenter. Despite all of her works, accolades, and her transparency about the ups and downs of being a wife, mother, and homemaker, Bombeck remained married to Bill Bombeck and continued raising three children while writing her famous column, all from her home in Dayton, Ohio. A 1949 graduate of the University of Dayton, she became a household name in the '70s and '80s. Over her decades-longer career, Bombeck published more than 4,000 syndicated columns; was a contributor to Good Housekeeping, Redbook, and McCall's, among many, many others; created, wrote, and produced the 1981 television series, Maggie; and appeared on the national television show, Good Morning America between 1975 to 1986.

Calling Bombeck "every woman" and a "force of nature," the playwrights were first introduced to Bombeck in their childhood through their mother who was a huge fan and they in turn became fans rushing home from school to read her column. The playwrights collaborated with Bombeck's husband and children to bring the play to life and nail her humor, wit, and wisdom which inspired women in America and across the globe with her insight into being what some may call an ordinary homemaker.

"Erma with her wonderful, pointed wit and her very sharp powers of observation brought that whole world out into the open," said Margaret Engel, co-playwright. "Her fans were legion. They loved her because she illuminated their lives which were funny, tragic, comic, interesting, but really had been so unremarked upon before Erma Bombeck took the world by storm."

The play premiered at Arena Stage in Washington, DC in 2015, and has been produced at several regional theatres across the country. The setting of the story takes place in Bombeck's home in Dayton, Ohio, and spans many decades from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Bombeck will be played by actress and the nationally syndicated columnist, The Suburban Outlaw Pam Sherman, whose own career takes a few cues from the famed writer. Sherman's The Suburban Outlaw columns ran for 15 years and were syndicated in over fifty markets nationally through the Gannett and USA Today Network.

Sherman first played Bombeck in 2018 to sold out shows and rave reviews at the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York. The production, also directed by Mark Cuddy, former Geva Theatre Artistic Director, came back to Geva by popular demand in 2019 and was later picked up by the Denver Center for their 2019-2020 season, as well as at Shea's 710 in Buffalo, NY.

Regarding playing the tour-de-force solo role, actress Pam Sherman says, "I'm thrilled to play Erma at Cleveland Play House." She says, "As a writer her words inspired me to share stories from my own an actor her story inspires me to take the audience on a journey filled with humor, heart and the true courage of a trailblazer."

KeyBank is the 2023-2024 season sponsor for Cleveland Play House.

Erma Bombeck: At Wit's End is presented in by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc.

Running from July 29 through August 20, 2023 in the Outcalt Theatre at Playhouse Square located at 1407 Euclid Avenue, evening performances of Erma Bombeck: At Wit's End are held Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 PM; and on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 PM. Matinee performances are held on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2:30 PM. Additionally, an evening performance will be held on Sunday, July 30 at 6:30 PM.

Tickets start at $25. Student tickets are $15 (valid student ID required). Ohio Direction/EBT cardholders receive $5 admission to any performance (up to eight tickets). Military personnel and their immediate families receive 50% off tickets. Seniors may receive $10 off tickets. Groups of 20+ can save up to 30% on their purchase. Single tickets can be purchased by calling 216.241.6000. All tickets can be purchased by visiting



(Erma Bombeck) is a writer, actor, leadership consultant and former lawyer whose story of leaving her day job as a lawyer to pursue her dream as an actress was featured in People Magazine. Having graduated from American University and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Sherman practiced law specializing in securities and employment litigation in Washington, D.C. Upon leaving the law to become an actor, she attended the British American Drama Academy at Oxford University and The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater. Sherman has performed in theater, film, and television, including NBC's, Homicide: Life on the Streets, Unsolved Mysteries, and the long-running play, Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center. Her one-woman show Pumping Josey: Life and Death in Suburbia has played to great acclaim in many venues, including Horizons Theater the oldest women's theater in the US. Her portrayal of Erma Bombeck in the one-woman show Erma Bombeck: At Wit's End played to sold-out audiences and broke box-office records around the country. Her regular nationally syndicated column, The Suburban Outlaw was published for 15 years in Gannett's Democrat + Chronicle and on the USA Today Network.

Allison Engel

(Playwright) has been a reporter for the Des Moines Tribune, San Jose Mercury and Pacific News Service, and a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. She was a speechwriter for former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack and lieutenant governor Sally Pederson and president of the Des Moines Playhouse. She and her twin Margaret wrote the play Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, which had its world premiere at Philadelphia Theatre Company with Kathleen Turner in the title role, where it broke the theatre's box office record. The play went on to Arena Stage, Geffen Playhouse, Berkeley Rep, Zach Theatre, and many others. She was director of communications at the University of Southern California and associate director of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities. She holds an MA in screenwriting from USC. Earlier, she co-wrote Food Finds: America's Best Local Foods and the People Who Produce Them with her twin, and adapted the book into a show on Food Network, where it ran for seven years.

Margaret Engel

(Playwright) directs the Alicia Patterson Journalism Foundation and was the managing editor of the Newseum. She was a reporter for the Washington Post, Des Moines Register and Lorain Journal, and was a Nieman fellow at Harvard. She and her twin wrote the play Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, which has played at several theatres nationwide. In 2017, the two authors wrote a book with Reise Moore, ThriftStyle: The Ultimate Bargain Shopper's Guide to Smart Fashion that included input from several costume designers. She and her husband, Bruce Adams, wrote three editions of a Fodor's travel guide to America's baseball parks. She has served on the board of Theatre Washington/Helen Hayes Awards, the Fund for Investigative Journalism, and chairs the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism awards board. She is a member of the Nieman Foundation board.

Mark Cuddy

(Director) has directed over one hundred plays and musicals across the country including Erma Bombeck: At Wit's End starring Pam Sherman at Geva Theatre where he served as Artistic Director for twenty-seven years. Among many others, his recent directing work at Geva includes Constellations, Ring of Fire, Once, The Humans, To Kill A Mockingbird, Good People, Clybourne Park co-produced with Cleveland Play House, and the annual production of A Christmas Carol for which he also wrote the adaptation.


(Scenic Designer) is the resident Scenic Designer and Lecturer at Oberlin College. She returns to CPH, where she designed the production of Everybody for CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program. Recent work at Oberlin includes Stonewallin, Or, and The Moors. Other local design work includes Stew, Kill Move Paradise, and Stupid F*cking Bird for Dobama Theater, and Rent for Cain Park. She holds an MFA in Scene Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jeremy Paul

(Lighting Designer) is a director, designer, and interdisciplinary artist. Recent designs include lighting for Head Over Heels (Near West Theatre) and The Thin Place (Dobama Theatre); and projections for The Other Place (Dobama Theater). He has directed the world/regional premieres of My Barking Dog (Eric Coble), Black Cat Lost (Erin Courtney), Tall Skinny Cruel Cruel Boys (Caroline V. McGraw), Inoculations (Darren O'Donnell), Anna Bella Eema (Lisa D'Amour), and Stranded on Earth (Eric Coble), in addition to devising and co-creating over 25 original productions including Inferno, Who We Used To Be, and The Excavation. He is the founder and Executive Artistic Director of Maelstrom Collaborative Arts and he is the inaugural Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence at The Cleveland Institute of Music.


(Stage Manager) is a Cleveland based stage manager and artist with his BFA in Stage Management from Wright State University. His recent stage management credits include The Bubbly Black Girl who Sheds her Chameleon Skin (Karamu House); The Liar, Everybody, Passage (Cleveland Play House); Langston Hughes' Black Nativity (Karamu House).


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