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Grapes of Wrath

April 16, 2013

The Theater Program’s production of the Steinbeck classic “The Grapes of Wrath” will be the inaugural production at the new URBN Annex Black Box Theater, officially opening on Friday, May 10 at 8 p.m. after a preview performance on the evening of Thursday, May 9. There will be a Saturday evening performance followed by a closing matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 12. Writer/Director Frank Galati created this critically well-received stage adaptation, which features music by Chicago-based singer-songwriter Michael Smith. This particular version, known as the “Steppenwolf Production,” won the Tony award for Best Play in 1990.  

The message of American realist John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel endures even 74 years after its initial publication, says Westphal Theatre Program Director Nick Anselmo, director of the Mandell Professionals in Residence Project (MPiRP). “The economic conflict between the big and little farms in the novel is very much like the conflicts we’re seeing in contemporary politics,” says Anselmo. 

Presenting an expansive Dust Bowl epic journey on a more intimate stage transforms the story into its own unique creation, says Dana Marcus, an Entertainment & Arts Management major, who is helping produce the show as part of her senior thesis. “Everyone is excited to be working in the URBN Annex. The new space has already become our baby. We were able to make the new black box into something that really works for this production,” she says. 

Anselmo, a black box theater enthusiast to the core, highlights the way the URBN Annex stage gives ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ a lot more impact and provides an opportunity for the audience to become engaged in the storytelling. “The actors and actresses in ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ will be playing live musical instruments – accordions, mandolins, strings, etc. – during the performance,” he says. “The Woody Guthrie-esque folk storytelling is part of the emotional, education experience of the play.” 

The URBN Annex Black Box Theater is located at 3401 Filbert St., Philadelphia.