John Steinbeck’s epic novel “The Grapes of Wrath” will be brought to life on an intimate new stage by students in the Department of Performing Arts in Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. The production, which marks the inauguration of the new Black Box Theater in the URBN Center Annex (3401 Filbert St.), opens on Friday, May 10 and will run through Saturday, May 25.
Under the direction of Nick Anselmo, director of the Westphal College’s theater program, the students will perform writer/director Frank Galati’s critically acclaimed stage adaptation, which features music by Chicago-based singer-songwriter Michael Smith. This version, known as the “Steppenwolf Production,” won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1990. All music will be performed live by the student actors and actresses on instruments which include accordions and mandolins and other stringed instruments.
“The message of Steinbeck’s novel endures nearly 75 years after its initial publication,” said Anselmo. “The economic conflict between the big and little farms in the novel is very much like the conflicts we’re seeing in contemporary politics. The Woody Guthrie-esque folk storytelling is part of the emotional, educational experience of the play.”
Tickets are $5 for Drexel students, faculty and staff with ID; $10 for non-Drexel students; and $15 for general admission. To purchase tickets and for performance times, visit: http://cooptheater.westphal.drexel.edu.
“The intimate nature of the Black Box stage gives ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ a lot more impact and provides an opportunity for the audience to become engaged in the storytelling,” said Dana Marcus, a senior in the Entertainment & Arts Management program, who is producing the show as her senior thesis. “We were able to adapt the space into something that really works for this production.”
In addition to the play, the theater program will hold two symposiums on the social and political impact of Steinbeck’s novel on contemporary and modern history. “John Steinbeck vs. Ayn Rand,” an exploration of the two authors’ works on culture, will take place May 22 at 8p.m in the Black Box Theater. The panel will include Drexel faculty from the history, English, engineering and theater departments. A second panel focusing on the music of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, entitled “Woody Guthrie: An Expert Discussion of Guthrie's Music and Politics,” will take place May 15 at 8 p.m. in the Black Box Theater. Both discussions are free and open to the public.