tennessee wet rub

Tennessee Wet Rub

Download "Tennessee Wet Rub" Excerpt (pdf)
Drama for cast of five and any theatre, ages 14+.


It’s January 30, 1951, and perhaps what is the worst winter storm in Tennessee’s history is burying the state under snow and ice. Roads have been shut down, and people are without power. As the storm rages, Bertha and Hank, an older white couple, huddle in their shuttered barbecue restaurant when 16- year-old Arleta, a white girl, and Dunk, a 20-year-old black male, enter seeking shelter. This eloping couple is breaking the law and tests the values and compassion of Hank and Bertha. Conflict escalates and everything comes to a head when a deputy sheriff arrives to arrest Dunk for kidnapping Arleta. In the end, Hank bonds with Dunk in the unlikeliest of ways and has his worldview transformed.


HANK DUNWIDDIE White male, 60s. Speaks with a Tennessee mountain dialect, Appalachian English.
BERTHA DUNWIDDIE White female, 60s. Hank’s wife.
DUNK FREEMAN Black male, early 20s. Highly intelligent and well-spoken. Confident, almost cocky, but very politically savvy and polite.
ARLETA EASTER White female, teens. Demure. Wary.
VERN White male, 20.

Production History

August 2024 World Premiere, Cottage Theatre, Cottage Grove, Oregon.
March 2023 Staged Reading, Upright Theatre Company, Euless, Texas.
September 2022 Staged Reading, The Legacy Theatre, Stony Creek, Connecticut.
July 2022 Streamed Zoom Performance, Chicago Dramatists, Chicago, Illinois.

Commentary from Theatregoers and Readers

In its heart, this is a tale of friendship, love, and breaking down seemingly unbreakable barriers. Simply stunning!
This play is just gorgeous. It has a suspenseful narrative that had me on the edge of my seat the whole way. It contains five richly developed and complex characters and spot on social commentary, but there is an artistic alchemy at work here that melds all these compelling parts into a richer, more moving whole.
Intriguing, insightful, and mysterious. Rich characters that actors joyously sink their teeth into.
Ruyle expertly tackles and dissects race relations in the 50s via a rustic tale filled with tension, danger, innocence, and humanity. Exceptional storytelling and exquisitely devised characters. Fantastic!
An achingly beautiful play.
Ruyle ramps up the tension, then allows us to relax just long enough to ramp up the tension again. This whole play keeps you uncomfortable in all the right ways. Storms of weather. Storms of social constructs. There were tears in my eyes by the final scene. This play is truly a gift.
A beautifully written play with memorable characters whose voices will long linger in the mind's ear.
Ruyle effortlessly creates an atmosphere simultaneously cozy and menacing. The tension simmers with the BBQ sauce and the ensuing narrative feast is more than satisfying.
Beautifully complicated and flawed characters.
Ruyle throws one delicious curve after another to introduce you to people who discover they are capable of change, capable of growth, and capable of forming friendship and finding love in the most unexpected ways. A real charmer from start to finish.
Very gripping narrative with strong and distinct characters. I loved watching the characters evolve, and the ending was very satisfying. Absolutely loved this!
Ruyle creates such vivid images in Tennessee Wet Rub and subtly draws on our expectations of a different time and place to create tension. But rather than present characters that neatly meet those expectations, he has crafted characters of flesh and blood, heart and soul, and brains. An exquisite play!