MFA in Creative Writing Program
Residency Site: Port Townsend WA
Darrah Cloud’s most recently produced plays include: Our Suburb, at Theater J in Washington, DC, What’s Bugging Greg? and Joan The Girl Of Arc, at Cincinnati Playhouse, and the musical Makeover in development at the University of Iowa. Also in the works: a new play, The Amateur Jesus, and lyrics for Sabina, a musical adaptation of Willy Holtzman’s play. Past productions include: HeartLand, The Stick Wife, the stage adaptation of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!, The Sirens, the stage adaptation of The Boxcar Children, The Mud Angel, Braille Garden and American Siddhartha. She recently won the Macy’s Prize for Theatre for Young Audiences. She has written numerous movies for CBS and NBC, is a proud alum of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and New Dramatists, and is the co-chair of Half Moon Writers, the development wing of the Half Moon Theatre in the Hudson Valley.
MFA, Poetry, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, University of Iowa
MFA, Playwriting, Iowa Playwrights Workshop, University of Iowa
BA, Liberal Arts, Goddard College
Areas of Expertise
Screenwriting, Playwriting, Fiction writing, Graphic novel and memoir. Editing, theatre management, artistic development, programming for theatre, script reading.
I grew up in a post-war housing development in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. My parents were card-carrying agnostics living in a neighborhood of Traditional Jews (the synagogue was at the end of our street) and Catholics (their church was across from my school.) I spent many a Saturday morning sitting in our window watching those going to temple walking past our house in their best clothes on their ways to Skokie Valley Traditional, and many a Sunday morning watching those going to church pile into station wagons for the short trip to St. Joan of Arc. On steaming hot days in the summer, I didn’t envy them. All the rest of the time, I did.
From childhood on, I actively searched for a religion to which I felt I belonged. I tried the Big Three; I chanted with Buddhists; I visited the B’ahai, who’d built by far the coolest temple up north on the lake. Meanwhile, my mother constantly took us out of school for matinees downtown: I saw Eve Arden rave in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Sandy Dennis run her fingers through raw hamburger in And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little, As You Like It, with a whole bunch of old people in it, The Organic Theatre’s famous mostly-nude adaptation of Animal Farm, with a whole bunch of young people in it, Oliver! and a million high-school productions of Oklahoma! When I graduated from Goddard College in the late ‘70s, I thought I had found my true religion: poetry. This was because I got into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in Poetry, and I thought it was a sign.
A week into grad school, I realized that sitting around all day writing poetry was not enough for me. Also, I could not quote Yeats. I had wasted my youth on horses, odd jobs and road trips, and couldn’t quote one great writer, let alone a poet. I was an embarrassment to myself. I avoided facing this by enrolling in a course called Basic Playwriting taught by a grad student named Lee Blessing. When the head of the Playwriting Department suddenly quit his job, he was replaced in a matter of hours by an insane Scottish playwright named Tom McGrath, whose exquisite play, The Hard Man, was a huge influence on me, and subsequently by Phil Bosakowski, who taught us that plays were agile things which could be written in a matter of minutes, put on by oneself, and moved on from, like stepping stones, to new places. To me, it seemed like writing a play was just a matter of pumping up a poem. Thus began my journey towards Theatre, my passion, the temple, the church where I belong.
The sheer joy of writing sustains me through good times and bad, allows me to discover things I didn’t know, to work out problems I’m too immature to handle yet, to feel love and gratitude in an often unlovable, ungracious world. I like lending this out in teaching. A practical person, I like teaching people how to sell what they write. I crave the freedom of working on a novel in obscurity, and I enjoy the restrictions inherent in writing a villanelle, or a play, or a screenplay. I love inventing people and deeds, and I love working my own life into a character’s, so that I can deny that I ever personally thought or did such things. I teach from the experience of almost thirty years of daily fighting and flying with my talent and my shortcomings and the infinite possibilities inherent on a blank page. I like engaging in dialogue over new work. I ask students to read constantly in order to find out how other writers handle certain things. I encourage a habit of writing to form. I know the psychology of being a writer as well as structure and form, and enjoy sharing this as well. I like helping writers get over the fear of revision, find inspiration, and see all the fantastic possibilities in their ideas. I love narrative and I love busting narrative. I love the stage picture and all the elements of performance that one can bring into an evocative piece of theatre. If I have a static philosophy, it’s something like, as Roethke put it, “…I learn by going where I have to go…”
- What's Bugging Greg?Premiered at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park2011
- Snow White (Musical Adaptation)Disneyland2007
- Hearts Are Wild (Rock Musical) City Theatre, Pittsburgh2006
- HeartlandMadison Rep Theatre and Dallas Summer Musicals2004
- O Pioneers! (Musical Adaptation) The Acting Company2004
- The Stick Wife (Play)Dramatic Play Publishing1996