Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati

Skip to main content Skip to search

Hands on a Hardbody

book by Doug Wright | lyrics by Amanda Green | music by Trey Anastasio & Amanda Green

Get Tickets
A close-up of the door handle of a red vehicle with the key in the lock and a keychain of Texas hanging. A close-up of the door handle of a red vehicle with the key in the lock and a keychain of Texas hanging.

Start. Your. Engines.

Based on the 1997 documentary film of the same name, Hands on a Hardbody garnered three Tony Award nominations and features a brilliant score from Amanda Green and Trey Anastasio (front man for the band Phish), along with a masterful story by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife, Grey Gardens). For 10 hardluck Texans, a new lease on life is so close they can touch it. Under a scorching sun for days on end, armed with nothing but hope, humor, and ambition, they’ll fight to keep at least one hand on a brand-new truck in order to win it. Inspired by true events and infused with a “fresh roots-rock vibe,” this is the hilarious, hard-fought contest where only one winner can drive away with the American dream. Featuring a catchy combination of blues, rock and roll, and country songs, this musical is a peek into the lives of everyday, ordinary Americans struggling to survive against the backdrop of a broken and beaten working middle class.

Run time: ~2 hr, 15 min with one intermission

Content warning: These Texans get pretty competitive when vying for a truck that’ll change their lives. They sometimes use adult language, including both sexist and racist remarks (including the word sp*c). Under the scorching sun, they also discuss suicide, PTSD, violence, and drug use, all while putting their hands on a truck and dreams on the line.

You'll love this show if you love...

  • A big cast of complex characters who feel stuck and are fighting hard
  • Musicals with catchy rock, blues, and country music and spectacular choreography
  • Small towns, big dreams, and blue collar protagonists
  • Stories about hope and the small things that can change a life
  • Theatre based on real life by critically acclaimed writers
  • A blend of quirky comedy and edge-of-your-seat drama
  • Friendly (and not so friendly) competitions!

Similar ETC shows:

  • The Great American Trailer Park Musical by Betsy Kelso and David Nehl
  • Violet by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley
  • Grey Gardens by Doug Wright, Michael Korie, and Scott Frankel


Similar titles:

  • 9 to 5 (20th Century Fox)
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Universal)
  • Footloose (Paramount Pictures)

Creative team

An older white man with a graying goatee and glasses looking seriously at the camera

Doug Wright

Doug Wright
A middle-aged white woman with shoulder-length blonde hair smiling at the camera

Amanda Green

Lyricist & Co-Composer
Amanda Green
A middle-aged white man with shaggy blonde hair, graying facial hair, and glasses smiling at the camera

Trey Anastasio

Trey Anastasio

Events & Accessibility

Several people in theirs 20s and 30s around a restaurant table smiling at the cameraShow Up! Young Professionals Event

Saturday, June 15 at 2:00 pm

Join other Young Professionals (at a special YP price) for the performance then walk to a nearby bar or restaurant to mingle and discuss the show over discounted drinks and bites.

A yellow speech bubble graphicETC Essentials

Sunday, June 23 at 1:00 pm

Dive even deeper into each show with a FREE conversations series that explores our productions’ themes and context with local scholars and community members. These start an hour before show time, and registration is recommended.

""Meet the Artists

Thursday, June 20 at 7:30 pm | Sunday, June 23 at 2:00 pm

Stay after the show for a FREE post-show behind-the-scenes discussion with artists from the production.


American Sign LanguageASL-Interpreted Performance

Wednesday, June 26 at 7:30 pm

Interpreters perform a translation of the play into ASL alongside the performance in a position with great sightlines to see both the action of the play and the interpreters.

Ask for an assistive listening device at any performance from our box office.

Audio Described PerformanceAudio Described Performance

Saturday, June 29 at 2:00 pm

Patrons can use a headset for one ear to hear descriptions of key visual elements inserted into natural pauses in the show, allowing patrons to still hear dialogue, sound effects, and music.

Ask for large print or Braille playbills at any performance from our box office.

Photo credits | First Timer’s Guide, Brooke Steele in The Frog Princess; Ticket Info, Bryant Bentley, Burgess Byrd, and Leslie Goddard-Baum in Detroit ’67 (Mikki Schaffner); Subscriptions, Cast of Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Ticket Discounts, Torie Wiggins in Your Negro Tour Guide. All images by Ryan Kurtz unless otherwise noted.