The location of this program has changed.
April marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath, a novel that shook America’s consciousness and sparked a national debate around issues of labor, social justice, and migration. This year, the National Steinbeck Center honors the work’s impact as a cultural catalyst by inviting readers to rediscover the novel and the writer who created this odyssey of Depression-era America—as well as the ways that this now-timeless story has reached beyond the page.
The Joad family’s journey, fueled by dreams and desperation, has inspired retellings in several forms. In addition to John Ford’s 1940 film adaption, in which Henry Fonda’s iconic Tom Joad seemed to bring a Walker Evans photo to life, The Grapes of Wrath was adapted as an opera in 2007 by composer Ricky Ian Gordon.
A highly lauded stage version was created by writer-director Frank Galati for Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 1988, and has been mounted by companies across the country ever since. When the Steppenwolf production came to Broadway in 1990—winning the Tony Award for Best Play—the New York Times called the show an “epic achievement for the director…[who] makes Steinbeck live for a new generation not by updating his book but by digging into its timeless heart.”
Galati, actress Lois Smith, who created the role of Ma Joad at Steppenwolf, and Michael Donald Edwards, artistic director of Florida’s Asolo Repertory Theatre, who directs a production of the Galati play this spring, are joined by Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw to discuss how The Grapes of Wrath’s powerful portraits of human perseverance in the face of injustice found their theatrical reflections. Elda Rotor, editorial director of Penguin Classics, serves as moderator.
The discussion will be accompanied by a screening of excerpts from Galati’s adaptation, in addition to actors from Florida’s Asolo Repertory Theatre enacting scenes live from their current production of the same adaptation. A number of Shillinglaw’s Steinbeck-related books are on sale for signing.
Programs subject to change.
Frank Galati tells how he condensed and focused the broadly scaled novel for the stage, as well as how music provides “an engine” for his adaptation.
Lois Smith and Gary Sinise are among the Steppenwolf actors seen in this excerpt from the Broadway production of The Grapes of Wrath.