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Theatre and Dance's "The Grapes of Wrath" Inspires Altruism

Posted Apr. 2, 2010

School of Theatre and Dance's The Grapes Of Wrath Inspires Altruism and Reminds Us of Tougher Times   

The Kent State University School of Theatre and Dance will close its 2009/2010 season with a timely epic production which examines the human condition and reminds us that today's economic woes pale in comparison to the Great Depression.

Based on the Pulitzer prize-winning novel by John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, the book also garnered Steinbeck the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. Steinbeck, known for his sympathetic humor and keen social perception, wrote "The Grapes of Wrath" in 1939 after seeing the devastation that blanked the country during the Great Depression. Soon after the book came out, it was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda, who was nominated for an Oscar for his depiction of Tom Joad. In 1990, The Grapes of Wrath, adapted by Tony Galati, opened at the Cort Theater in New York on May 22, 1990, ran for 188 performances and won the 1990 Tony Award for the Best Play.

The Grapes of Wrath is directed by faculty member Mark Monday. The production will run April 23 through May 2 in the Wright-Curtis Theatre in the Music and Speech Center at 1325 Theatre Drive in Kent. Tickets are $8 students, $12 Seniors, KSU Alumni, Faculty and Staff, $16 and can be purchased from the box office at 330-672-2497 or The box office is open weekdays, noon – 5 p.m. and one hour prior to curtain. 

The renowned story tells of the fictional Joad family and their flight from the dust bowl of Oklahoma. Desperately proud, but reduced to poverty by the loss of their farm, the Joads pile their few possessions on a battered old truck and head west for California, hoping to find work and a better life. Led by the strong-minded Ma Joad, who is determined to keep the family together at any cost, and by the volatile young Tom Joad, an ex-convict who grows increasingly impatient with the intolerance and exploitation which they encounter on their trek, the Joads must deal with death and terrible deprivation before reaching their destination--where their waning hopes are dealt a final blow by the stark realities of the Great Depression.

Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote of the 1990 Broadway debut"...majestic...leaves one feeling that the generosity of spirit he [Steinbeck] saw in a brutal country is not so much lost as waiting once more to be found."

When the book came out, the subject matter became a very touchy subject to a variety of industries and associations. For the Banks and the large farming corporations who controlled most California farms, they were less-than-pleased with the original novel. The book was actually banned in some states and in several counties in California, and the book was not carried in the municipal library of author John Steinbeck's home town of Salinas, California, until the 1990s. They were even less thrilled that a film was being made of it.  Even producer Darryl F. Zanuck was doubtful that conditions could be as bad as Steinbeck's novel portrayed them, so prior to filming, he sent undercover investigators out to the migrant camps to see if John Steinbeck had been exaggerating about the squalor and unfair treatment meted out there. He was horrified to discover that, if anything, Steinbeck had actually downplayed what went on in the camps. The Associated Farmers of California called for a boycott of all 20th Century-Fox films, and Steinbeck himself received death threats.

For More Information Contact:

Effie A. Tsengas
PR/Marketing Coordinator
College of the Arts
330-672-8398 or

Attention photo editor: Photos from the production are available upon request by contacting Effie Tsengas. 


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