Darrah Cloud, from writing laws to writing lyrics, for ‘Sabina’
Former Pine Plains town Supervisor and local resident Darrah Cloud, an award-winning author and well-known playwright who spearheads the weekly Pine Plains Writing Group, is at the Portland Stage Theater in Portland, Maine, watching the lyrics she wrote for the play “Sabina” come to life, as shown in the scene shown above. Photo submitted

Darrah Cloud, from writing laws to writing lyrics, for ‘Sabina’

PORTLAND, Maine — Good things are worth waiting for, and that includes the latest work from Pine Plains award-winning author Darrah Cloud, lyricist for the musical “Sabina,” first conceived of in 2012 and now streaming from its debut performance at the nationally recognized Portland Stage Theater in Portland, Maine.

Cloud also happens to be the former town supervisor of her hometown of Pine Plains, a well-known playwright and teacher, a local businesswoman and landlord, and a  volunteer who spends her “free time” running a writing workshop.

The musical “Sabina” was adapted from playwright Willy Holtzman’s off-Broadway 1996 production of the same name. It was originally set for 2020 but was delayed by the COVID pandemic.

In it, Cloud, who as town supervisor once helped write town resolutions and laws and gave a voice to those in need of aid, has given a powerful voice to Sabina Spielrein, who herself gave voice to others through her groundbreaking work in psychoanalysis.

The musical centers around a wealthy catatonic Russian woman who was cured by Carl Jung using Sigmund Freud’s then-new technique.

She became Jung’s lover, was known for helping to forge a relationship between the Freud and Jung, and eventually become a therapist herself, pioneering treatment for women before being murdered by a Nazi Death Squad in 1942 at the age of 56.

Fascinating as this real life character is, equally interesting is the way in which Cloud’s words reached the stage.

For years, Cloud’s plays and TV movies have been known for featuring solid roles for women.

“All my writing is to focus on female characters based on getting to New York in 1981 and realizing that there were all these incredible actresses and they had crappy roles or roles that were small or roles that were inaccurate,” she said. “It was horrible… In meeting those actresses I realized there’s a whole 50% of the country not being addressed accurately in the theater.”

So began her quest to provide quality roles for females despite the male-dominated theatrical scene.

While a hard choice, she labeled “The Stick Wife” as her favorite. It “features a woman married to a member of the Ku Klux Klan in 1963 and unbeknownst to him, she acts the role of the loving and dutiful housewife while informing on him to the FBI,” said Cloud.

“She’s utmost in my mind because that’s the play that got me really started in the theater. There were a number of ideas in the premise that if you behave a certain way all your life, you do you not end up sort of having to be that.”

Being flexible herself, she answered the call in 2005, when Holtzman’s best friend suggested turning the well-received dramatic play “Sabina” into a musical.

Always working on a play, at that time she was busy with “Makeover” a musical about Estee Lauder. Cloud nevertheless joined Holtzman and the “amazing” composer Louise Beach.

The group would meet at Beach’s house — often weekly, and “just hammered it out —the three of us. We chose what we wanted to include… and kind of got rid of what we couldn’t put into a musical,” with its faster pace and monologues that become songs in the more emotional medium.”

Throughout the process, the work changed “hugely and constantly,” as it evolved from a play about the two men and centered on Sabina.

Delighted to be again working in a “very influential regional theater with a lot of new work that’s gone out into the rest of the nation,” Cloud lauds those responsible for this “dream production.”

That includes the many young performers who had to manage the difficult task of Zoom auditions after having graduated from Yale and Juilliard, with their careers put on hold as COVID darkened theaters.

Of the entire production, Cloud said, “I am so proud,” noting she’s delighted local viewers, including those in her Pine Plains Writing Group, will be able to download tickets to share in the experience.

Tickets for the download are available from Wednesday, May 18, through Sunday, June 5, through www.portlandstage.org.

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