Cloud, Darrah 1955-
CLOUD, Darrah 1955-
PERSONAL: Born February 11, 1955, in IL; married David Emery Owens (an actor), 1992; children: two. Education: Goddard College, B.A., 1978; University of Iowa, M.F.A. (creative writing), 1980, M.F.A. (theater), 1981.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Peregrine Whittlesey Agency, 345 East 80th St., New York, NY 10021.
CAREER: Playwright. Taught English in a women's prison; Denver Center Theatre, Denver, CO, playwright-in-residence, 1992. Executive producer of the television film Shattered Mind (also known as The Terror Inside), 1996.
MEMBER: HB Playwrights Foundation.
The House across the Street, produced in New York, NY, 1982.
The Stick Wife (produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1987), Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1987.
Obscene Bird of Night (adaptation of José Donoso's novel), produced in Juneau, AK, 1989.
(With Kim D. Sherman) O, Pioneers! (musica;l based on the novel by Willa Cather; produced in Seattle, WA, 1989), Dramatic Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.
Mud Angel, produced in New York, NY, 1990.
Genesis, produced in Juneau, AK, 1992.
The Sirens, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1995.
(With Kim D. Sherman) Heart Land (musical), produced in Palo Alto, CA, 1997.
Also author of Dream House and Braille Garden.
The Haunted, Fox Broadcasting Company, 1991.
O Pioneers! (adaptation of Cloud's play), Public Broadcasting Service, 1991.
A Christmas Romance, Odyssey, 1994.
A Holiday to Remember, Jaffe/Braunstein Films, 1995.
(And executive producer) Christmas in My Hometown, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 1996.
(And executive producer) I'll Be Home for Christmas, Jaffe/Braunstein Films, 1997.
(With Ronald Parker) Night Ride Home, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 1999.
(And executive producer) A Holiday Romance, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 1999.
(And executive producer) Sons of Mistletoe, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 2001.
Undercover Christmas, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 2003.
Cowriter, with Norman Allen, of Snow White, a short film for Fantasyland Theater, Disneyland, 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Electronic Raven (film).
SIDELIGHTS: Darrah Cloud was born in Illinois, also the home of Kim D. Sherman, with whom Cloud has collaborated on several plays since their first project together in 1998. Cloud's plays, which have been produced in the United States, Ireland, and England, reflect the flavor of the American Midwest. They also feature prominent roles for women, a conscious decision made by Cloud, who from the beginning of her career felt that she wanted to provide more good female roles.
Cloud's first play, The House across the Street, concerns the Fortunes, a family that lives opposite the home of a mass murderer, loosely based on real-life serial killer John Wayne Gacy. As police dig up corpses, the Fortune children, thirteen-year-old Donald and his younger sister, eagerly keep track of the body count. Their mother, Lillian, tries to block the view by lowering the blinds and is horrified when coroner Norman Bird comes into the house and tracks mud from the murder site all over her carpets.
Jessie, the title character of The Stick Wife, is married to Ed, a member of the Ku Klux Klan and the man responsible for the bombing of a Montgomery, Alabama, church that resulted in the deaths of four young black girls. The story takes place entirely in Jessie's yard, where she hangs on her clothesline the white sheets Ed uses as a costume. Jessie wills herself to be ignorant of Ed's deeds, and after hearing of the bombing, she pulls her skirt over her head, as though that will keep her ignorant, but nearly goes mad nevertheless. The second act takes place on the second day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Ed has been indicted, but he is acquitted and comes home.
Hedy Weiss reviewed The Stick Wife in the Chicago Sun-Times, calling it "a fascinating and distinctive exploration of the roots of racism and sexism. In a bizarre, Sam Shepard-like way, it is surprisingly funny, too. Playwright Darrah Cloud displays a gift for dealing with complex ideas in a personal, offbeat manner, and for mixing lyrical poetry and off-the-wall colloquialism."
Cloud and composer Sherman wrote O Pioneers!, a television adaptation of Willa Cather's 1913 novel about life on the prairie. It is the story of Alexandra Bergson, who takes over the family homestead after the death of her father. The novel and play reflect how the woman who tames the land neglects her emotional needs until it is nearly too late, a theme that is still relevant in contemporary times. Cloud's Mud Angel is about a rural Wisconsin family that owns a horse named Shadow, whose part is a speaking role portrayed by a female actor.
In preparation for writing The Sirens, in which three of her female characters strike back at their abusers, Cloud interviewed women in shelters and others who had been convicted of murder and were serving time in a maximum security prison for women. She wanted to understand their lives and options for escape from their abusers. The project was sponsored by the Denver Center Theatre, where Cloud was playwright-in-residence.
The four protagonists of The Sirens are Denver women from different backgrounds who do not know each other and have little in common except that they are being abused. Of Sparky, Teresa, Eileen, and Margo, only Margo does not resort to violence. Gretchen Griffin noted in a review for American Theatre that "Cloud took stock of the male slant on abuse at a recovery center for batterers who had been routed into the program by the courts. The potency of these encounters resonates throughout the play, for the male characters are imbued with deeper dimensions than simple aggression."
Cloud and Sherman collaborated on two more musicals, Honor Song for Crazy Horse, a tribute to the Lakota nation hero that includes twenty-two singing parts for Native Americans, and Heart Land, the story of an Iowa family. In the latter, which uses only seven actors, a dying mother summons her daughters back to the farm for the Fourth of July holiday. "Far from being a simple musical about one family's Midwestern reunion," wrote Laura Evenson in the San Francisco Chronicle, "it touches almost every hot button in modern American life: the right to die, environmental issues, abortion, gay rights, urban-rural conflicts caused by migration to big cities, even conflicting feelings about new technologies."
Cloud told Evenson that, in Heart Land, she identifies with the character of Sara, the serious, eldest sister, a teacher in Chicago who is hiding the fact that she is a lesbian, although Cloud herself is not. She told Evenson, "Well, I suppose I look like a polite Midwesterner, . . . but inside I'm a profane raging rebel. I worked in a women's jail teaching English, and realized that there's no difference between me and my students there. I have a criminal mind, and the only thing that saved me was that I didn't want to go to jail."
Cloud has also written and produced scripts for television, beginning with The Haunted, a popular Halloween piece, and has also penned numerous television movies featuring Christmastime stories for families.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
American Theatre, March, 1995, Gretchen Griffin, review of The Sirens, p. 10.
Chicago Sun-Times, February 1, 1988, Hedy Weiss, review of The Stick Wife, section 2, p. 27.
Daily Variety, February 25, 2004, Joel Hirschhorn, review of Snow White, p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter, December 19, 2001, Michael R. Farkash, review of Sons of Mistletoe, p. 12.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 15, 1997, Laura Evenson, review of Heart Land, p. 40; June 25, 1997, Steven Winn, review of Heart Land, p. E1.
SFWeekly.com,http://www.sfweekly.com/ (March 29, 1995), Laura Jamison, review of The Sirens.*