Bruce Graham’s New Play “Sanctions” Tackles Big Issues
Delaware Theatre Company kicks off their 40th Anniversary season with the World Premiere of Sanctions. Written by Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham (White Guy on the Bus, The Outgoing Tide), this hard-hitting play tackles issues of institutional racism in sports and sexual assault on college campuses. Graham’s incendiary and timely new drama, inspired by true events, runs September 12 – 30, 2018. Tickets are on sale now starting at $25 and can be purchased online at or by calling the Box Office at (302) 594-1100.
A university athletic department returns to the big business of college football after its NCAA probation is lifted. Claire, the players’ educational supervisor, is caught between offense and defense as she juggles NCAA sanctions, student welfare, an interfering member of the education department, and personal issues. A new scandal involving a freshman tutor throws a flag on the play and threatens to blow up the whole program as Claire questions the value of sports and education.
Bruce Graham loosely based the story on a scandal at University of Georgia in 1980s. Jan Kemp, an English professor, blew the whistle when she learned that nine football players were given passing grades in a class they failed. The following year, she was dismissed. After suing, she was reinstated. Kemp said, “All over the country, athletes are used to produce revenue. I’ve seen what happens when the lights dim and the crowd fades. They’re left with nothing. I want that stopped.”
Kemp is the inspiration for Claire, who struggles with this very concept. Her dilemma rests on the school’s failure to provide an adequate education to the players and the players’ chance at the NFL. Graham says, “I became fascinated with the character of Claire. I thought it might be cool to write a play with a sports background with a woman as the protagonist. That doesn’t happen too often.”
He adds, “To me it was always the story about people who blindly follow without thinking.”
According to director Bud Martin, “The subject matter is incredibly timely, and it is our responsibility to tell this story. I recall the effects of sanctions and scandal against Penn State and Ole Miss. It’s more than a game- it cripples the town’s economy.”
He adds, “The issues around sexual assault on campus are shocking because of the alarming prevalence. The University of Delaware just released the results of a survey where 48.5% of female respondents had experienced unwanted sexual contact and 10% of females had been sexually assaulted. We’re proud to present this story in support of the #MeToo movement. We’ll be partnering with Wilmington University, the University of Delaware, Delaware State University and the YWCA to help prepare our cast and audiences for the issues they will deal with in this play. DTC will be hosting talk backs and speaker panels after performances to offer audiences the opportunity to talk about the subject matter in a productive and safe way.”
The cast features Catherine Slusar*, Kimberly Fairbanks* (DTC: Because of Winn-Dixie), Edward O’Blenis* (DTC: The Piano Lesson), and Susanne Collins.
Sanctions partners Dirk Durossette’s intimate and judicial scenic design with Thom Weaver’s evocative lighting, Katherine Fritz’s modern costumes, Nicholas Husong’s projections, and Lucas Fendlay’s sparse, but haunting marching band music and sound effects. The fragmented set represents four main locations, yet evokes old world classrooms and offices in the shape of a stadium, blending the tension between sports and academia.
Performances are held on Delaware Theatre Company’s stage, located at 200 Water Street in Wilmington, DE, just feet from the beautiful Riverfront. Sanctions runs September 12 – 30, 2018. Tickets are on sale now starting at $25 and can be purchased online or by calling the Box Office at (302)594-1100.
Institutional Summary: Currently in our 40th season, Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) is Delaware’s premier non-profit professional theatre. Recognized as a cornerstone in the Brandywine Valley’s rich cultural landscape, DTC has produced nearly 200 plays for over one million residents and visitors in its community. For more than two decades, DTC has been a pioneer in the revitalization of Wilmington’s Christina Riverfront and cultural district as the only LORT theatre in the state. Since Bud Martin’s arrival in 2012, DTC has seen a 54% increase in subscribers and a 234% increase in single ticket buyers, making Delaware Theatre Company an up and coming player in the regional theatre community.

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