RADFORD – The American Shakespeare Center’s 2019/20 National Tour comes to Radford University with a free performance of Steinbeck’s great American novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” this Saturday, Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m. at Bondurant Auditorium in Preston Hall.
“The Grapes of Wrath” follows the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers, as they travel from Oklahoma to California to escape the ravages of the Dust Bowl, fighting oppression and mother nature on their journey along Route 66. The play is a deeply affirming tribute to the endurance of the human spirit. In the Joads, audiences will see a reflection of the goodness and strength that perseveres in the face of adversity.
Originally published in 1939, John Steinbeck’s classic novel received immediate acclaim and stirred controversy for its depiction of the rural working class. Frank Galati’s stage adaptation of the novel won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1990. The enduring spirit of Galati’s adaptation lives on in ASC’s production which honors the simplicity and sparseness of the Broadway production which The New York Times called “…majestic…leaves one feeling that the generosity of spirit he saw in a brutal country is not so much lost as waiting once more to be found.”
“In the Joads, Steinbeck created an indelible portrait of resilience and grace. They are like every family…doing the best they can with the little they have. They are a stark reminder of the human toll of migration but also the power human beings possess to persevere, to change, and to be kind,” says director José Zayas. Zayas’ previous credits include Studio Theatre (D.C.), the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Flea Theatre (NYC), Repertorio Espanol (NYC), and GALA Hispanic Theatre (D.C.).
Every year, ASC assembles a diverse and dazzling collection of artists from all over the country for their National Tour. This cast features performers who are brand new to ASC – such as Mia Wurgaft (Shakespeare in the Square), Sara Linares (Asolo Conservatory), and Michael Moret (Texas State University) who leads the production as Tom Joad. The production also includes returning ASC veterans Topher Embrey (who audiences may remember as Dromio in The Comedy of Errors last year), Kenn Hopkins Jr. (previously seen as Polixenes in 2018/19’s The Winter’s Tale), Madeline Calais (known to tour audiences as Ismene in ASC’s Antigone), and Andrew Tung – who also serves as the tour’s music director. These accomplished, young artists are poised to enthrall audiences all over the country with a fresh take on old classics.
Original music in this production plays an expanded role – helping transport the audience along the journey with the Joads. ASC’s actor-musicians play live music before the show and during intermission, covering modern classics that riff on the themes of the play.
The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA produces year-round in the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, the Blackfriars Playhouse. ASC’s productions are intimate in scale, yet epic in scope, utilizing Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions (universal lighting, minimal sets, character doubling, cross-gender casting, and live music) to blend Shakespeare’s stagecraft with a modern sensibility. This engaging approach to the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries is what led the UK Telegraph to call ASC “one of the most accomplished Shakespeare companies in the United States.”
The 2019/20 season marks ASC’s 31st annual tour since the company began in 1988 as Shenandoah Shakespeare Express. In just over the past thirty years, the ASC National Tour has performed in 46 U.S. states, one U.S. territory, and five foreign countries. In 2018/19, the tour travelled over 15,000 miles, bringing the magic of the American Shakespeare Center to more than 16,000 patrons. As Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny puts it, “Touring is in our DNA.”
Don’t miss this enchanting, free performance by these talented artists at Bondurant Auditorium in Preston Hall on November 9, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. The performance is open to the public.