New Designing Women play premiers

The hit sitcom moves to the stage.

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason on a TV set

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason on the set. Photo by Gary Moss/Corbis via Getty Images.

Published on Show Me Mizzou August 19, 2021
Story by Marina Shifrin, BJ ’10

The 1990s megahit TV series Designing Women springs from the screen to the stage this fall in the form of a new play written and produced by series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, BA ’69. The sitcom’s fans get to reunite with the characters of Sugarbaker & Associates, the Atlanta-based interior design firm that served as a backdrop of their raucously funny world. During this modernized version of the series, the women running Sugarbaker & Associates must navigate the pandemic, their growing differences and a firm in crisis.

During Designing Women’s trailblazing seven-year television run, Americans fell in love with the Southern luminaries at its heart. There was Julia Sugarbaker, the firm’s elegant and unflinching founder; her sister, Suzanne, a former beauty queen turned unenthusiastic silent partner; Mary Jo Shively, a single mother of two and the company’s main designer; and Charlene Frazier-Stillfield, the sweet, albeit naïve, office manager from Poplar Bluff, Missouri — a nod to Bloodworth-Thomason’s hometown.

Set in 2020, the new play showcases Bloodworth-Thomason’s hilarious and razor-sharp dialog, famous for tackling social issues of the day. Her characters grapple with the same challenges America has faced during the pandemic. Just as the protagonists’ political divides threaten to destroy their friendship, they are forced into quarantine together. With nothing to do but shelter in place, they begin breaking down emotional barriers and revealing their deepest selves to one other.

Designing Women’s world premiere is set for Sept. 6 at TheatreSquared in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where it will run for five weeks. After that, Bloodworth-Thomason hopes to take the play to Broadway. To stream the show or see it in person, visit

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