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Leon's Productions
Alice In Wonderland
The Hairy Ape
Martini Ceremony
Moby Dick (Norfolk)
The Sea
The Grapes Of Wrath
Moby Dick (Alaska)
The Tempest
Moby Dick (Japan)
Laura V. Shaw Theatre, Kalamazoo MI, November 2000
Directed by Leon Ingulsrud
Set by Erich R. Keil
Lights by Jerome Hoppie
Sound by Matt Kneutsen
Costumes by Alexander Corzola

This production was based on the John Giulati addaptation of the novel by John Steinbeck. We did some fairly severe re-working of a number of scenes as well as both cutting and adding a good deal of material. One of the things I was interested in was Steinbeck's structure in the novel, in with he alternates chapters: after each chapter dealing with the emotionally hot story of the Joad family steinbeck inserts a chapter that is abstract and sometimes phylosophical. Since Steinbeck was writing at the time of the events he is describing, the novel is not a period piece. Therefore the production drew on contemporary images for much of the inserted material.

Director's Note:
A generation after the settlers pushed across the American plains in their covered wagons to claim their 40 acres, an ecological catastrophe of mind numbing proportions and a vigorously compassionless economy are pushing a endless stream of nomads towards the promised land of California. When they get there, instead of the idyllic life picking fruit that they had set out for, the migrants find themselves in camps where their humanity, strength and finally their lives are systematically striped from them. This holocaust is the backdrop for John Stienbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH.
The realities that the novel and it’s pursuant controversy, brought to our attention still seem shocking today and take their place alongside the genocide of aboriginal peoples, slavery and the internment of Japanese Americans in the United States hall of shame. Yet it is a sad truth that the homeless situation on our doorsteps today represents our continued capacity for the heartlessness of apathy, as we confuse ignorance for compassion. THE GRAPES OF WRATH serves as a reminder that material poverty is not caused by character flaws of the disenfranchised, but rather the spiritual poverty of those who are materially blessed.
Steinbeck did not write his book as a social tract. To the frustration of many of his followers, he was not interested in activism. As an artist he understood that his role was to give voice to those who had none. Not a political or economic voice, but the complex sound of the human heart. The cry and gnashing of teeth that is the score of the soul. This is not a conflict between the oppressor and the oppressed. This is a conflict between a soul which is free and the world which it finds itself in.
Theatre is an act of communal memory. It’s holiness rests in it’s ability to connect the inner-most depths of our lives with lives that have gone before us and with whom we share a journey. By focusing our attention on the struggle of one family in one specific situation, this work becomes about the persistence and universal inevitability of tragedy and the sheer, unshakable human beauty that it engenders.

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