‘Grapes’ director quells fears of stage adaptation
Michael Edwards had a tough job ahead of him.
As the director of the Syracuse Stage’s production of ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ it was his task to assuage the concerns that some had about the adaptation of the famed novel. With as beloved a classic as ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ there was some speculation as to how John Steinbeck’s dusty pages would be transposed to a theater stage. In order to ease citizenry concerns and promote the production, which opens this Friday, a question and answer discussion took place at Barnes and Noble in Dewitt Monday night.
‘This is one of those stories that transcends circumstances,’ Edwards said. ‘It is iconic. Ever single person has this story within them. We all have had the experiences of picking up our lives and making a journey.’
A main concern of the audience was how the somber tone of the book, the bleak and dark outlook of America at the time, would translate to the stage. Steinbeck is famous for giving the rich detail of the landscape of the time, and much of the novel is spent on vivid description. With such an emphasis on the scenery, queries were made as to how the set design would reflect this.
Edwards eased these concerns by stating that while the play could not produce many of the details found within the novel, the dusty roads for example, it would be able to convey the feeling and tone of the book through the acting, set design and music.
He stated that the goal was to accomplish the leap from the singular experience from a novel, to the shared collective response found in a play. The theme of connectedness is one Edwards stressed in the discussion as one of the most fundamental aspects of the play, as well as something he would like viewers to take away from the performance.
‘Above all else this is a story about human connection,’ Edwards said. ‘It is a journey from selfish individualism to a collective feeling of taking responsibility for one another.’
Edwards hopes people will see that they should connect with others as opposed to living a selfish life; he stressed that this is essential to have a fair and just society. This social and political commentary is one of the reasons he believes the adaptation should be seen.
‘This story shows that the less people have, the more they are willing to share. Unfortunately, we are going in the opposite direction now. That’s why I think it was particularly important that this be performed at this time,’ Edwards said.
The hard work Edwards put into answering with questions of the crowd did not go unnoticed. Many audience members appreciated his knowledge of the novel and his laid-back demeanor towards skillfully answering their inquiries.
‘I really enjoyed his insights into the whole world of Steinbeck,’ said Robert Brophey, a Syracuse resident. ‘It will be interesting to see the differences between the film and the play.’
IF YOU GO:
What: ‘The Grapes of Wrath’
Where: Syracuse Stage
When: March 23 to April 23, 2005, times and dates vary
Cost: $15 to $42
Info: Visit www.syracusestage.org or call 443-3275 for tickets and more information.
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