Diabetes: A Family Matter


Getting messages out about diabetes can occur in many ways. Three theater students at Ohio University were commissioned during the 2007-2008 academic year to write plays about living with diabetes in Appalachia. Each of the three playwrights were asked to develop a play that lasted approximately 20 minutes, included five actors or less, and used very few props. Each of the playwrights did research about Appalachia and diabetes as they learned firsthand about the region and its implications for living with diabetes. Three diverse and remarkable plays were written that tell different stories about what living with “sugar diabetes” is like. Dr. Sharon Denham worked with Charles Smith, the head of the Professional Playwriting Program at Ohio University to identify the three playwrights and guide them in their creation and writing of the plays.


Click on the titles below to watch a reading of the play and to download the script.

Sugar Bear
by Dana Lynn Formby

A Family History
by Nick Sgouros

by G. William Zorn

The Sugar Blues
by G. William Zorn

Discussion Guide

Please download our SUGAR Plays discussion guide for use in your community or with your family.

The plays have come to be called The SUGAR Plays for two reasons. First, people in the Appalachian region often refer to diabetes as “the sugar” or “sugar diabetes.” Whenever the disease is being discussed this is often the words that are used. Second, the word SUGAR is being used in the Diabetes: A Family Matter program as an acronym for Support to Unite Generations in the Appalachian Region. Volunteers working with the program are called SUGAR Helpers, volunteers that assist people learn about health and prevent diabetes.

scene from a SUGAR play

These plays are copyrighted by the playwrights and any use of the plays beyond local use with your Diabetes: A Family Matter program will require their permission. However, the playwrights have given permission for the use of the plays locally for diabetes work and may be used in different ways in your community for diabetes education or to raise funds for diabetes work.

The SUGAR Plays Discussion Guide (available in PDF) is designed to accompany the plays and provide ideas for talk-back or discussion sessions with the audience. This guide can be downloaded and freely used. Each of the plays can be viewed on this website and the three files containing the play scripts can be downloaded for local viewing or use.

The plays may be read individually at support meetings where participants assume various roles followed by a group discussion. Used at consecutive monthly support meetings, these plays could be a good way to think about diabetes from a variety of perspectives. Whoever leads sessions such as these will want to read all three plays and think about how they might want to utilize them. The three plays could also be staged using Community Theater and local actors as a way to inform people about diabetes in the Appalachian region. Putting on all three plays in a public venue can not only be a way to increase awareness, but also a means to raise funds locally for your diabetes project.

scene from a SUGAR play

A scene from the reading of A Family History.

Charles Smith - Ohio University Head of the Professional Playwriting Program

Charles Smith

Charles Smith is the head of the Professional Playwriting Program at Ohio University and a playwright in residence at the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. His plays have been produced off-Broadway and around the country by theaters such as Victory Gardens, The Acting Company, Indiana Repertory Theatre, People's Light & Theatre Company, The Goodman Theatre, Penumbra, St. Louis Black Rep, New Federal Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Berkeley Repertory Theater. His work has also been produced for the HBO New Writers Project, the International Children's Theater Festival in Seattle, and the North Carolina Black Arts Festival. His play Pudd'nhead Wilson enjoyed a twenty-two city national tour and his plays Takunda and City of Gold enjoyed tours of the west coast. His other plays include Knock Me a Kiss, Freefall, Les Trois Dumas, The Sutherland, Sister Carrie, Black Star Line, Jelly Belly, Young Richard, and Cane. A graduate of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, Smith has received commissions from Victory Gardens, The Goodman, Seattle Rep, Indiana Rep, The Acting Company, and Ohio University. He is an alumnus of New Dramatists and has taught playwriting at Northwestern University. His plays can be obtained through Samuel French, Dramatic Publishing, Smith & Kraus, and Meriwether Publishing Ltd. For more information about the plays of Charles Smith, please visit Charles Smith's Website.