The Grapes of Wrath

Darren Sells/Dearborn News-Herald/July 28, 1993

What is it like to be homeless will be seen up close when cast members of the Henry Ford Community College theatre department’s upcoming drama, “The Grapes of Wrath,” visit the Coalition of Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Detroit on Friday.

Among the cast making the trip will be Lincoln Park resident Jerry Burd, who will portray Grandpa and the Weedpatch camp Director; and Darryl Strasser, who will play Willy and Al Joad. They will join fellow actors Jaclyn Davis (a camp person), Shannon Murphy (Ruthie) and Emily Murphy ( a camp person) – all of Grosse Ile – and Jack Price ( Noah) of Taylor.

According to the play’s director, George Popovich, the experience will help the actors be more aware of the plight of the homeless and prepare them for their roles. The cast has volunteered to serve lunch at the shelter, the largest in Michigan. Located in downtown Detroit, COTS gave temporary shelter to about 5,000 men, women and children last year.

John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” is set during the Great Depression and is about the Joad family, which is evicted from their Oklahoma farm. They set out for the promised land of California, but their dreams of opportunity and wealth fade as they face death, homelessness and unemployment. Besides helping out at the shelter, Popovich has his cast listening to recordings of “The Grapes of Wrath” read by Woodie Guthrie to learn the dialect of Oklahoma natives.

The play will feature Guthrie’s folk songs, including his anthem of America, “This Land is Your Land.” Popovich said he chose the composer’s songs because he “expresses the struggle of the homeless during the Great Depression.”

Professional folk musicians Loretta Vickerman and Jim McKinney will play the hammer dulcimer and the fiddle during the production.

“The Grapes of Wrath ” will be staged at 8 p.m. Nov. 12,13,19 and 20 and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov 14 and 21 in the Adray Auditorium of the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center on the campus of HFCC. Tickets cost $8 for general admission ; $7 for high school and college students with ID; and $6 for senior citizens.

Popovich said the project will be entered in this year’s Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival. Popovich’s productions have been honored at two previous festivals – in 1987 for “one Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and in 1991 for “Macbeth.”

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