The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 28, 2008


The Grapes of Wrath moves onstage at CCHS on December 5

Rachel Yamron (left) and Mariah Ganek of Carlisle, freshmen tech crew members, try out the truck that carries the Joads to California. Ganek is also assistant stage manager. (Photo by Nancy Roberts)

The stage of Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) will soon be covered with scraggly trees, broken-down houses and...a truck?

John Steinbeck’s classic book, The Grapes of Wrath, has been adapted for the stage and chosen by Ben Kendall as this year’s annual CCHS fall play. Rehearsals and meetings have been underway since September, and the techies have been cranking out set pieces, including trucks. The actors, an engaging and captivating group of more than 40 students, have made the monumental play into something real and emotional that audiences of Concord and Carlisle will appreciate. Audiences can see the play on December 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. and December 7 at 1:30 p.m.

The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joads, a family that is forced to desert its house and all its land. The Joads have lived in Oklahoma for generations, but now they’ve fallen on hard times: the Dust Bowl has eradicated all their crops, and the Great Depression is hitting them hard. Everyone else in the Joads’ neighborhood has already moved on, but the Joads themselves are reluctant to go.

California calls

The family, prompted by pamphlets and posters calling for work hands, heads to California. The signs promise a bountiful and fulfilled life in California, where oranges and grapes and peaches grow for everyone to feast on and profit from. Little do the Joads suspect what really awaits them in California: only more hardship and heartache.

Throughout the entire play, fate seems to be working against the family. They are hopeful and naïve, and at first think nothing worse can befall them after they’ve lost their house. As they come up against more and more opposition for the very jobs they’re looking for, the Joads begin to realize they’re in over their heads. Their kind, warm family has nothing in common with the roughened men and women who have been turned back from California because there aren’t enough jobs for all those looking.

Family love prevails

Yet as their plans for a new life crumble around them, the family manages to hold itself together with hope and everlasting faith. The most important message of this play is the message of love and family, and how both can persevere through the toughest of times. Even as others desert them, the Joads forge through any opposition together.

Their family includes Rose of Sharon, or Rosasharn (played by Celeste Hall), who is five months pregnant; as well as Grampa (Evan Sneider), who needs a cane to stand, and Granma (Mary Beth Rush), who is heartsick at the thought of leaving home. These may not be the most able-bodied workers, but the rest of the Joad family never even thinks of leaving them behind or finding another place for them to go.

Neither does the family turn away anyone who needs help or shelter. At the beginning of the play, Tom Joad (played by senior Chris Gouchoe), an ex-convict, is making his way home on parole. When he meets up with his preacher, Jim Casy (Chris LeVan), Tom welcomes him to his home without a second thought. The rest of Tom’s family includes Casy in their plans right away, and Casy does his best to do his part of the work.

An emotional challenge

The student actors of CCHS successfully convey this feeling of family and affection in their portrayal of the Joad family. Though the play is a hard one to express in the post-Depression era, the students manage, with amazing skill, to show the audience what the Joads are feeling as they travel to California. They convey the family’s sense of loss as they are forced to desert their home of generations and their love for one another and the willingness to sacrifice themselves in order for their family to survive.

As the actors work on their lines, the techies are working behind the scenes to fit all the scenery onto the stage. The Joad family moves around the country, and each scene needs a different background to convey its difference. Papier-mache trees dot the landscape, and houses flip over to reveal government buildings. Also difficult was the construction of a life-size truck that needs to fit all the family members, as well as their luggage. But the stage manager, Samantha Gloria, and the set designer, Sarah Ganek of Carlisle, have it all under control.

It is clear that with the actors getting set in their roles, the techies building their set pieces and Ben Kendall directing, The Grapes of Wrath will draw enthusiastic audiences. Tickets are available at the door. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito