The Grapes of Wrath: Steinbeck's Classic Tale from Actors Theatre of San Francisco
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The Grapes of Wrath
by Frank Galati
based on the novel by John Steinbeck
directed by Jennifer Welch
Renowned first as a novel, and then as a prize-winning motion picture, the story of the Joad family and their flight from the dust bowl of Oklahoma is familiar to all. 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 to the promised land of California. Hoping to find work and a better life, the Joads must deal with terrible deprivation and death before reaching their destination- -- where their waning hopes are dealt a final blow by the brutal realities of the Great Depression. And yet, despite the anguish and suffering which it depicts, the play becomes in the final scenes, a soaring and deeply moving affirmation that out of the depths of tragedy the transcendence of the human spirit is assured.
John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, on February 27, 1902 of German and Irish ancestry. His father, John Steinbeck, Sr., served as the County Treasurer while his mother, Olive (Hamilton) Steinbeck, a former school teacher, fostered Steinbeck's love of reading and the written word. During summers he worked as a hired hand on nearby ranches, nourishing his impression of the California countryside and its people.
After graduating from Salinas High School in 1919, Steinbeck attended Stanford University. Originally an English major, he pursued a program of independent study and his attendance was sporadic. During this time he worked periodically at various jobs and left Stanford permanently in 1925 to pursue his writing career in New York. However, he was unsuccessful in getting any of his writing published and finally returned to California. His first novel, Cup of Gold was published in 1929, but attracted little attention. His two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To a God Unknown, were also poorly received by the literary world.
Steinbeck married his first wife, Carol Henning in 1930. They lived in Pacific Grove where much of the material for Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row was gathered. Tortilla Flat (1935) marked the turning point in Steinbeck's literary career. It received the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal for best novel by a California author. Steinbeck continued writing, relying upon extensive research and his personal observation of the human condition for his stories. The Grapes of Wrath (1939) won the Pulitzer Prize. During World War II, Steinbeck was a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches were later collected and made into Once There Was a War.
John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "...for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and a keen social perception." Throughout his life John Steinbeck remained a private person who shunned publicity. He died December 20, 1968, in New York City His ashes were placed in the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Salinas.
A well-known playwright and director, Frank Galati won two Tony Awards for adapting and directing "The Grapes of Wrath," which premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre, subsequently playing at the La Jolla Playhouse, the National Theatre in London, and on Broadway. "Grapes" also won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Play and the Drama Desk Award for Best Direction. His screenplay (with Lawrence Kasdan) for "The Accidental Tourist" was nominated for an Academy Award. Galati directed the stage production of the award-winning musical "Ragtime" in Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles and Broadway for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. He recently directed and developed the new musical "Seussical" in Boston and New York. Galati also directed the recent revival of "The Visit" on Broadway.
Associate director of the Goodman Theatre since 1987, he has directed "The Government Inspector," "She Always Said," "Pablo," "Passion Play," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "The Winter's Tale," "The Good Person of Setzuan," and the adaptations "Cry, The Beloved Country" and "Gertrude Stein: Each One As She May." He has staged many operas for the Lyric Opera of Chicago including the world premiere of "A View from the Bridge" by William Bolcolm and Arnold Weis. Under his direction, Steppenwolf has performed "As I Lay Dying" and "Everyman." He has received nine Joseph Jefferson Awards for his work in Chicago theater: one for acting, five for directing, and three for writing and adapting.