• Homect_img
  • COL 299ct_img
  • American Theatre Festival – Grapes of Wrath

American Theatre Festival – Grapes of Wrath

General Education Capstone Course

Event Details and Guideline Form

Event/Activity: Attend the Center Stage Theatre and American Theatre Festival’s performance of The Grapes of Wrath

Gen. Ed. Category event should be listed under: Social Sciences

SCC competencies addressed by event:

  1. Explain social institutions, structure and processes across a range of historical periods, places and/or cultures.
  2. Develop and communicate hypothetical explanations, predictions and descriptions of human behavior within an historical, spatial and/or social context.
  3. Draw on the social sciences to evaluate the diversity and complexity of contemporary local and global issues to provide a better understanding of the student‘s relationship to the social issues.

Guidelines for accomplishment of event:

1) Before attending the performance, visit one or both of the following sites concerning The American Theatre Festival. There, you will find the performance dates, the location of the performance and information about the play.

2) Before attending the performance, read the following information about the historical context of the play:

John Steinbeck was one of the nation’s most prolific writers from the twenties through the early sixties. His work on the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath is recognized as one of the great novels of American literature. When published in 1938, the book opened an instant national debate. Some Americans were so critical that the book was banned in some parts of the nation. In others, it was heralded as a literary triumph, The Great American Novel, that opened for all to read the unjust poverty in a nation of such wealth. The book won a Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Award. In 1962, Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In 1940, Hollywood’s Twentieth Century Fox released the film version with Henry Fonda as Tom Joad and Jane Darwell as Ma, with John Carradine as Casy. The film was directed by the legendary John Ford who won the Oscar for Best Director for the work. In 1990, Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company and the Shubert Organization produced the stage version adapted by Frank Galati.

THE SETTING: It is 1938 and the nation has been struggling through the worst depression in its history. Democracies all over the world are in economic stress and dictatorships such as Hitler, Mussolini and the Soviets Stalin seem to be on the rise. In the United States, devastating drought and infestations of grasshoppers and locust have cut a wide path through the Great Plains. Hundreds of thousands of small farmers went bankrupt and even lost their homes and were forced to leave the only land they had known. Thousands left and traveled west to California in the hopes of finding work and salvation. The Joad family symbolized what was had and was still happening to hundreds of thousands of Americans.

3) Attend the performance.

  • The performance is free for SCC students.
  • Running time: approximately 1 hour

4) Write a 4-page, double-spaced response to the play, works cited included. Please do the following in your response:

A. Briefly summarize the plot, characters and setting of the play, in one paragraph.

B. Pick 2-3 of the following questions, and spend the rest of your paper answering them.

  • Do you feel Tom Joad is the protagonist in this play? If so, why? What do you think he represent in his behavior and actions?
  • Can you sum up the political and spiritual values of Casy? How does he change as the play evolves? What happens to him and why? Find a supporting article and incorporate that position in your paper.
  • Discuss this statement – ”the dust storm takes two days to settle. At its end, the women secretly look at the men for their reaction and are relieved when they see that the men retain an unbroken spirit. They know deep within themselves that “no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole.”
  • As the Joads traveled west the encountered many people along the way. Does the play create a picture that can be drawn of the character of the people who were forced to migrate? Find an article to support your position and cite it correctly within the paper.
  • Contrast the private camps as compared to the New Deal government camp? If necessary research the New Deal Government camp and provide statistical information about it. Why were the Joads so surprised when they arrived at the New Deal’s government camp?
  • Why do you think that the book might have been so controversial in 1938? Could it be controversial today?
  • One reason, the book seemed so controversial was the religious references and symbolism in the book’s text. There was debate on the term “wrath” reflective of God’s feelings. What might his wrath have been portrayed in the play? Contrast that with the life, message and sacrifice of Jesus and how that might fit into the text of the play. Discuss.
  • How would you sum up the play’s message to the audience? How does the play connect to the world of 2013 – if at all? Support your position with specific data or examples.

SCC Event Creator: Heather Rodgers