"Mother Hicks"

A Full-Length Play by Suzan Zeder

Mother Hicks photo
Mother Hicks is not a witch. Roberto A Sanchez

Mother Hicks is set during the Great Depression and centers around a foster child called simply “Girl” who is searching for a place to belong. Girl grew up in Ware, Illinois and was passed from one household to the next. At the start of the play, Girl has landed in the house of Hosiah and Alma Ward, the town undertakers. Alma has lost her own children and is desperate to make Girl a part of her family.

For Hosiah and Girl, the transition is difficult due to her bad behavior and his condescension. Ware, Illinois is a superstitious town and has a long history of blaming any bad luck or illness on Mother Hicks. “She’s a witch,” they say. In reality, Mother Hicks is a midwife, healer, and grieving mother. She stays away from the town as much as possible to avoid the ignorant comments and stares from the townspeople.

The narrator of the play is a young deaf man named Tuc. Tuc communicates via sign language and a chorus speaks his words in flowing verse. He has a special awareness of Girl and wants to see her safe and looked after. These three outcasts - Tuc, Girl, and Mother Hicks - see the town and its people in three vastly different ways. Once they break through barriers of ignorance, naïve assumptions, and aggressive demeanors, they all heal and grow.

Mother Hicks is marked by several depression-era themes.

First, there is Girl’s previous foster family who had to move on and send her away because their money and jobs were gone. (Girl has experienced this over and over again.) Second is the view that anyone with a disability is incapable of anything but the simplest job. Little attempt is made to incorporate Tuc into a community that is already struggling.

Third are the superstitious attitudes towards midwives and healers - the belief that they have otherworldly knowledge and that they can curse you and yours with diseases and death. (It is far easier to blame the healer for failing than to accept the death of a loved one.) But ultimately, the play’s message is that although things have been hard, there are better days around the corner.

Technical Elements

Mother Hicks requires a set that can suggest multiple locations with minimal movement of set elements. Light, fog, and pieces that suggest the various locations are preferable to large, fully realized sets.

Playwright Suzan Zeder has one important note for any theatre that produces Mother Hicks. She strongly suggests finding and working with an actual deaf actor to play the role of Tuc. The character’s signing should not be made up; it should be true sign language in all its complexity. Anything less will detract from the character and the play in a large way.

Setting: Ware, Illinois

Time: 1937

Cast Size: This play can accommodate 8 actors: 3 main roles and a chorus of 3 men and 2 women to play the 7 other speaking parts.

Male Characters: 4

Female Characters: 4

Characters that could be played by either males or females: 0


Tuc is a young deaf man who grew up in a caring family and attended a school that taught him to sign. His family died and he migrated to Ware. He tries his best to be a part of the town, but feels more comfortable with Mother Hicks. He would love to see Girl become a part of their group.

Girl is a 13-year-old orphan in search of any shred of family or stability. Her fantasies and desires hinder her search and blind her to the family that is ready to welcome her forever.

Mother Hicks has had it with her town, with its ignorant shopkeepers, and with the hostility her profession brings down on her. Those she’s loved and those she’s healed abandon her by leaving, dying, or turning against her.

Jake Hammon loves Girl, but his family is large enough and he can’t find the money to feed his own children let alone a foster girl.

Izzy Sue Ricks is convinced that old Mother Hicks is a witch and that Girl is just as bad and she better stay away from her son.

Ricky Ricks loves a good dare. He encourages Girl to take as many dangerous dares as possible.

Clovis P. Eudy is the shop owner. He grudgingly hired Tuc, but he has come to appreciate his help. He is among those who believe that Mother Hicks is a witch.

Wilson Walker works for the FWP, Federal Writers Project. His division is folklore - specifically witchcraft.

Alma Ward wants a family. She wants Girl in her family. She will fight her husband and Girl’s wild and contrary nature to form her family.

Hosiah Ward is grieving for the family he might have had if that Mother Hicks hadn’t cursed his children with disease and death.

Content Issues: Guns, witchcraft, teenage pregnancy, and death

Mother Hicks is available to purchase for production through Dramatic Publishing. It is also part of the book Wish in One Hand Spit in the Other: A Collection of Plays by Suzan Zeder.