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"The Grapes of Wrath" - SUNY New Paltz Theatre offers dramatic and compelling look at American History

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NEW PALTZ -- In commemoration of author John Steinbeck's 100th birthday on February 27, 2002, the Department of Theatre Arts at SUNY New Paltz presents the stage version of Steinbeck's epic novel The Grapes of Wrath. The play is a Tony Award winning adaptation by Frank Galati. It runs February 28 though March 10 in McKenna Theatre.

Images from The Grapes of Wrath are available online at Brumm directs the SUNY New Paltz production. Brumm's recent productions at SUNY New Paltz include Marisol: An Apocalyptic Fantasy, Angels in America, and Blood Brothers. Scenery is by Christine McDowell, lighting by John Wade, and costumes by Lea Umberger. The play includes original music by Michael Smith, under the direction of Stephen Kitsakos.

Written in 1938, The Grapes of Wrath won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and was later adapted as a prize-winning motion picture. It is the story of the Joad family and their flight from the dust bowl of Oklahoma. Reduced to poverty by the loss of their farm, the Joads pile their few possessions on a battered old truck and head west for California in hopes of finding work and a better life. The Joad family's pilgrimage is brought to life with a large ensemble of over 30 actors who help create the entire panorama of the journey. The play becomes a soaring and deeply moving affirmation of the indomitability of the human spirit, and of the essential goodness which-then as now-resides in the hearts and minds of the "common man," throughout the world.

Music provides an important element in the production. The original music and lyrics by composer/performer Michael Smith convey the sound of the era while providing depth and insight into the characters' personal stories. Stephen Kitsakos has assembled three musicians who appear on stage and play guitar, fiddle, and harmonica. One of them, guitarist and Hudson Valley resident Jay Mankita, has shared the stage with Pete Seeger, David Bromberg, Leon Russell and Paul Winter, and has been a favorite at many folk festivals, including Falcon Ridge and Clearwater's Great Hudson Revival.

Background on John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck's other novels include Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, Cannery Row, The Pearl, and The Winter of Our Discontent, among others. Sometimes called the "Bard of the Common Man," Steinbeck created a body of work that is noted for its emphasis on social and political change. The Grapes of Wrath in particular shows the harshness of life in the Dust Bowl and the effects of the Great Depression. In an interview for Voice of America in 1952 Steinbeck said: "When I wrote The Grapes of Wrath, I was filled with certain people who were doing injustices to other people."

The novel was controversial when it was published. Banned in certain places in the United States, it was burned twice in Salinas, California. Since its initial publication, the novel has sold more than 14 million copies and has been translated into nearly every language of the world. Considered one of the most enduring works of fiction by an American author, it still sells 100,000 paperback copies a year. The Grapes of Wrath won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize and was the cornerstone of Steinbeck's 1962 Nobel Prize.
- from the National Steinbeck Center,

The SUNY New Paltz production of The Grapes of Wrath is performed February 28 - March 2 and March 7 - 9 at 8:00 p.m. and March 3 and 10 at 2:00 p.m.

A Friday Night Forum is planned for March 1. On that evening the performance is preceded by a lecture beginning at 6:30 p.m. and followed by a Q& A with the cast and director. Both of these events are free and open to all.

Box Office Information

Tickets are $12 adults, $10 for seniors and students. They may be purchased with a credit card by phone at 845-257-3880, or in person at the McKenna Theatre Box Office. Box Office hours are Monday through Friday, 11:30am to 4pm beginning February 14, 2002. On performance nights, the box office opens one hour prior to curtain. McKenna Theatre is wheelchair accessible and equipped with assisted listening device for the hearing impaired; please inform the box office of your accessibility requirements when ordering tickets.

Other Information

Images from the SUNY New Paltz production of The Grapes of Wrath are available at Images are provided in both JPEG and TIFF files, at 72 dpi and 300 dpi, respectively. Director Beverly Brumm is available for interviews; please contact David Cavallaro at 845-257-3872 or by e-mail:

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SUNY New Paltz is a university of nearly 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students located in the Mid-Hudson Valley halfway between New York City and Albany. SUNY New Paltz is committed to providing high quality, affordable education to students from all social and economic backgrounds. For more information about the university, visit its web site at