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'Sweet Flag' takes theatregoers to the Nebraska frontier

Published on March 04, 2022

'Sweet Flag' takes theatregoers to the Nebraska frontier

Eastern theatre performs "Sweet Flag" Eastern Connecticut State University’s Theatre Program opened the spring 2022 semester with “Sweet Flag” from March 1-6. Written and directed by Theatre Professor J.J. Cobb, the story follows the lives of women living in the Nebraska Territory in 1866. In addition to excellent acting by Eastern students, the show featured lighting and sound effects, interpretive dance, and voice-overs of poetry by Walt Whitman and the "Lost Notebooks of Loren Eiseley."

Following midwife Prudence Prentiss, referred to as Prudie and played by junior Joy Ike, the play addresses the lives of women living on a homestead in Nebraska, as well as the perception of indigenous and native communities on whose land they inhabit. 

As the play opens, music plays across the auditorium. In the corner of the audience’s eyes a door opens, and out walks the character of “The Warrior,” played by first-year student Jayce McKenna. As eyes wander to the character, they walk stoically around the auditorium, wearing traditional indigenous clothing. As fast as they came, they left, leaving the audience waiting for what comes next and wondering about the significance of such a mysterious opening. 

As the story unfolds, it is revealed that there are many struggles on the homestead, including a lack of success with the land, acquiring and building homes, pregnancies and the arrival of a rogue Indigenous girl. Prudie and her close confidant and expectant mother Eugenie Sutton, played by senior Cassie Champagne, take the girl under their wing and nickname her “Shell.” 

Shell’s character, who is believed to be deaf, frightens Prudie and Eugenie at first, as they wonder where she comes from. They suspect she comes from a Sioux tribe, insinuating that their retrieval of her would be dangerous. However, Prudie houses her regardless, adding tension among the women, as some think she brings a curse, and are worried about her place on the homestead. 

Throughout the hour-long play the wind howls in the background, so intense that the characters comment on the noise. At one point, Anne Gatz, played by first-year student Megan Wrobel, comments on the wind in relation to Shell, yelling, “She has raised the winds against us.” The wind noises, as well as other sound effects such as birds and crickets, bring the audience into the scene, immersing them in the show as if they were really in the Nebraskan frontier. 

With only eight students performing roles in the play, the small cast allowed for intimacy within the scenes, as fights, vulnerable moments and pain are shared between only a few characters at a time.

The play highlights the problematic views of indigenous and native communities, as they are thought of as dangerous and untrustworthy by many of the married women. As the play continues, tensions caused by money, theft and a miscarriage result in the leaving of Shell and Prudie, leaving audiences wondering what was to come of their future.

Throughout the play, Cobb used “site methodology,” which she described as the concept that theatre not only adapts to the constraints of a particular site, but can be written to illuminate how that location influences the events that take place. By using lighting, soundscape and backgrounds such as clouds and sky, Cobb and the rest of the “Sweet Flag” production team took viewers on an immersive experience within the Nebraskan Territory and frontier.

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For more information, visit or contact the FAIC Box Office at (860) 465-5123 or email .

Written by Molly Boucher