(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- As Centenary Stage Company prepares to open its world premiere production of Turning (running February 25 through March 7), the playwright, Darrah Cloud, is working on a new commission, The Imaginary Life of a McQueen. Cloud is a writer at her core, with numerous credits and works throughout her prolific career, as a playwright, screen writer, lyricist, and author. Cloud now wears yet another hat as an elected public official serving as the Town Supervisor of Pine Plains, NY.
According to Cloud a Town Supervisor is “kind of like a mayor, but mayors are in Villages/Cities and Town Supervisors are in Towns. Towns generally encompass the land and outskirts which hold Villages/Cities within them. So, I create and maintain the budget, write grants, run Town Board meetings and try to bring new energy and business and housing into town.” This is her first position as an elected official in her hometown, after deciding to get into local government to see her small rural town turn around economically. She campaigned door-to-door which she found “intimidating, but also really wonderful” as she was able to meet the incredible people of her town.
“It’s a unique place that needs to be preserved as well as enhanced,” Cloud said of Pine Plains. Balancing the two jobs of writer and Town Supervisor can be challenging at times, but Cloud finds that the two often end up more alike than others may believe. Cloud told Centenary Stage Company that her day usually consists of writing in the morning and then going to Town Hall after that. “Town Supervisor is a part-time-paid job but it’s full-time 24/7. When the boiler at the highway goes out they call me, no matter what time it is,” Cloud explained. And when asked about if one job ever gets in the way of the other, she said, “I am always balancing my own needs with the needs of 2,504 other people. Often, they are the same.”
Cloud, an alum of CSC’s Women Playwrights Series, has also had her play Dreamhouse produced with Centenary Stage Company. This originally connected her Women Playwrights Series, Director, Catherine Rust, who was impressed by Cloud’s writing prowess. When Rust wanted to commission a piece featuring a historical Hackettstown resident, Rust turned to Cloud. When asked about how Cloud came to the story of Turning she said, “When I was commissioned by Centenary Stage to write a play about some citizen of Hackettstown, I chose Ada Lunardoni. But when we went to do our research on her, we discovered a painful fact about the history of significant women: they were hardly anywhere to be found.” Ada Lunardoni was a member of the first ever U.S. Women’s gymnastics Team to be sent to the Olympic Games, and later was a resident of Hackettstown, NJ. It seems that after her return from the 1936 Berlin games, Ada and her teammates, were largely forgotten by United States history. The 1936 Olympic games were historically significant as this was Hitler’s Germany, that the women and the rest of the Olympic athletes were travelling to compete in. Adolf Hitler hoped that these Berlin Games would prove his theory of Aryan racial superiority. Instead, the great Jessie Owens, an African American track superstar defeated Hitler’s “Aryan Supermen” and became a “hero” to the people of Berlin for disproving Hitler’s theory or race superiority. Although Jessie Owens is a household name, no one has heard anything about the women on the first U.S. Gymnastics team. “If you look up the roster for the 1936 Olympics women’s gymnastics team, you will find that the whereabouts of the team members after the games are largely unknown or unheralded. I wanted to set that right, but I also wanted to be in the world of those women, to examine their courage at becoming “turners”—gymnasts —at a time when women didn’t become athletes at all, and their courage at sailing back across the Atlantic after sailing west to escape Europe in their childhoods. To me it was an immigrants’ story above all else. And aren’t we all travelers to new and difficult frontiers in the arcs of our lives?” said Cloud of her desire to tell the story of the team.
Soon Cloud and, Director of Centenary Stage Company’s Women Playwrights Series, Catherine Rust embarked on a journey to meet living members of other Olympic teams of that era as well as Ada’s relatives, and doing so Rust and Cloud discovered a lot about Ada’s life, but very little about her as an athlete at the games. Cloud said in an interview with Centenary Stage Company, “I searched for a long time to find a way to tell her story. And then we re-visited the idea a few years ago, and found, in a very small article in an old paper, one very important tidbit of information about her that said it all. And that is the play that finally, I wrote.”
Turning has gone through several staged readings, two with Centenary Stage Company and NJ PAC in collaboration with New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s “Stage Exchange” program. Now, after being rescheduled to the 2020-2021 season due to COVID-19 closures at the end of the 2019-2020 season, it will finally make its World Premiere in Centenary Stage Company’s Sitnik theatre. Through all of the hurdles that Turning has faced from writing to getting on its feet this month, Cloud has been there every step of the way, giving the actors more background and providing revisions where necessary, meaning even more writing in conjunction with her duties as Town Supervisor. Cloud maintains that her work with her town, benefits from her skills as a playwright. “Much of the work of getting grants is instilling confidence in other people that your town deserves money and to live. That takes enormous writing skills. I also issue a newsletter every week to inform people of all the things that are going on,” Cloud described, so her writing is present in every aspect of both jobs. Cloud wishes that more people would take the plunge and get involved with their own local municipalities saying, “It really is the best thing you can do with your time. But you have to keep a lid on your feelings and really try to communicate with everyone, and serve everyone, even people who say mean things about you.” While her love of writing extends to her position as a public official, Cloud says her favorite, unique things about the town job are, “Meeting other Town Supervisors. Solving problems. Getting cool things to happen in town. Shoveling snow off the ice rink.”
Centenary Stage Company’s production of Darrah Cloud’s Turning runs February 25 through March 7 in the Sitnik Theatre of the Lackland Performing Arts Center at 715 Grand Ave. Hackettstown, NJ on the campus of Centenary University. Specific performance dates and times are Thursdays, Feb. 25 and March 4 at 7:30 PM; Fridays, Feb. 26 and March 5 at 8:00 PM; Saturdays, Feb. 27 and March 6 at 8:00 PM; Sundays, Feb. 28 and March 7 at 2:00 PM and Wednesday, March 3 at 2:00 PM.
Tickets range from $25.00 to $27.50 for adults with discounts available for students, seniors and children under 12.
Centenary Stage Company’s World Premiere production of Darrah Cloud’s Turning is sponsored in part by The House of the Good Shepherd and Heath Village Retirement Community. It is presented in collaboration with the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and the NJPAC Stage Exchange.
For more information or to purchase tickets visit centenarystageco.org or call the Centenary Stage Company box office at (908) 979 – 0900. The box office is open Monday through Friday from 1 – 5 PM and two hours prior to every performance. The Centenary Stage Company box office is located in the Lackland Performing Arts Center at 715 Grand Ave. Hackettstown, NJ on the campus of Centenary University. Centenary Stage Company can also be found across social media platforms; Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Like and follow to receive the latest in CSC news and special offers.
The 2020-2021 season of performing arts events at the Centenary Stage Company is made possible through the generous support of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the NJ State Council on the Arts, the Shubert Foundation, the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, the Sandra Kupperman Foundation, and CSC corporate sponsors, including Season Sponsor The House of the Good Shepherd, Silver Sponsors Hackettstown Medical Center Atlantic Health System, Home Instead Senior Care (Washington), Fulton Bank, and Centenary Stage Company members and supporters.