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'The Mystery of Clara Cloud' arrives at New England Air Museum

The play is about women’s role in the early days of aviation and will be staged in the museum’s hangers

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — Imagine going to the New England Air Museum for a night of theater.

That’s what will happen later this week as audiences will experience and help solve “The Mystery of Clara Cloud.”

Each act of the three-act play will be performed in a different hanger at the museum in Windsor Locks. The 10 characters, some real, some fictional, tell the story of Clara Cloud, a fictionalized female pilot whose disappearance is at the heart of the story. In the process, the audience will learn about aviation’s early days in Connecticut and the role of women in that history.

The COVID-delayed play was written by local playwright Betsy Maguire, after the museum approached her two years ago in hopes of having a play performed in the hangers.

“I did some research on the golden age of aviation, which was about the 1920s and 30s. And then I wrapped a fictional story around those real events,” said Maguire. “We hear monologues from real and fictional people from history, and in each of their talks with the audience, you pick up clues.”

Credit: FOX61
Actors rehearse "The Mystery of Clara Cloud" at the New England Air Museum

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Stephanie Abrams, the museum’s new Executive Director, said she is excited about the play and the direction the museum is heading.

“We've really been changing it up here at the museum, we've been adding a lot of digital technologies. And this seemed like a wonderful event," she said gesturing to the B-29 Superfortress on display. “It's a great backdrop for theater, and also a great backdrop for music for dance or for other kinds of entertainment. We really welcome other people in the community to approach us.

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Maguire knew all along that she wanted to make it a women-centric play, weaving through the story, the role of women in early aviation. She said the time period was when women were striving to make their mark in the skies alongside the men who had pioneered the early days of flight.

“But it was very, very difficult for them to take their place. And so that plays very much into the mystery of this," she said.

“There were a lot of crashes back then of aircraft,” said Maguire. “And when men crash, the plane was always blamed. And when women crashed, the pilot was blamed. So, it really became very difficult for these early fly girls to get there.”

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Chris Bushey directs the show. The cast includes Virginia Wolf of Farmington, Melissa Veale of Simsbury, Christy Donahue of West Hartford, Betsy Bradley of New Britain, Mark O’Donnell of Windsor, Gloria Gick of Simsbury, Karen Balaska of Somers, Stephanie MacGillivary of Enfield, and Mark Vogel of Hartford.

Credit: FOX61
Actors rehearse "The Mystery of Clara Cloud" at the New England Air Museum

Bushey and Maguire have worked together in the past.

“One of the things that I really enjoy about Betsy is writing is that it's very natural. It's very realistic,” said Bushey. He appreciates the unique “stage.”

The staging of the show uses the planes in the hanger as props and its set. 

“I think being in this space, it's a wonderful thing. But it also makes it more difficult," Bushey said. While most of the characters are made up, they really come across as real people.”

“The Mystery of Clara Cloud” has three acts, taking place in each of the museum’s three large exhibit hangars, with a run time of about one hour. There will be four performances, as follows: Saturday, February 12th at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, February 13th at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 each.

For more information about the show, including how to order tickets, please visit neam.org. The museum has free parking and is located at 36 Perimeter Road, Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.


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