Local gymnast Ada Lunardoni subject of play

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Former Hackettstown resident Ada Lunardoni had an illustrious claim to fame that was little known to her neighbors — she was a member of the first US Women’s Gymnastics Team that had its genesis in the backyards and Turners Gyms of Newark, then going on to cross the Atlantic Ocean with Jesse Owens and compete in the controversial 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Lunardoni and the team are the subject of a play commissioned by the Centenary Stage Company, in collaboration with NJPAC and the NJ Theatre Alliance in a project entitled the NJ Stage Exchange.

The working title for the play in development is “Turning” by Darrah Cloud.

Similarly to an earlier project, “The Tillie Smith Play”, CSC will be holding a presentation and town-hall style meeting on Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lackland Performing Arts Center to invite the public to participate in the creative process with their memories of Lunardoni, and/or of the era when so much was changing in America.

Award-winning playwright Darrah Cloud will be on hand with readings from the first scenes of the play, as well as Centenary University Historian Ray Frey, to share his vast knowledge of NJ at the time of the 1936 Olympics, as well as pre WWII Germany. Cloud also penned the play “Dreamhouse” which premiered at the Centenary Stage Company in 2001, and more prominently, the stage adaptation of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers, which was filmed for American Playhouse starring Mary McDonnell. She has had over 10 movies-of-the-week produced on CBS and NBC, and is the recipient of both an NEA and Rockefeller fellowships for her writing.

A presentation about the team and its history will also be included in the evening, with an audience discussion following.

Other members of the first US Gymnastics Team include NJ residents Consetta Caruccio, reigning US champion Jennie Caputo, Margaret Duff, Irma Haubold, Marie Kibler, Adelaide Meyer, and Mary Wright. Lunardoni passed away in 2003.

CSC is hoping to learn more about the other team members from patrons who are able to attend the evening. Admission to the event is free, but reservations are requested.

To reserve a seat, call 908-979-0900. For more information, log onto www.centenarystageco.org.

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