The Grapes Of Wrath

Richard Marsh/Dearborn Press and Guide/November 1993

The answer is …”PBS’ “American Playhouse.'” The question ? “What is the best description of the quality of Henry Ford Community College’s production of “Grapes of Wrath?” This production is another in a long line of HFCC theatrical masterpieces and for director George Popovich. It should be with the amount of work the cast and crew have put into the show. They have been working on it for more than six months.

The John Steinbeck novel from which the play is adapted is an American classic. The story is about the farmer-turned-destitute Joad family during the dust-bowl days of Oklahoma in the late 1930’s. The Joads head to California to start a new life, but find only continued poverty.

The acting was exceptional. Particularly outstanding were Jerry Burd as Grandpa and Jack C.Valian as Noah. The one weakness involved occasional problems by some of the performers with projecting sufficiently over the many sound effects.

The staging was deceptively difficult. At first glance, there did not seem to be much to the set and props. However, how many sets have a covered three-foot deep water tank or a trench of dirt? How many have hook-ups throughout the stage for electrical campfires? (The fire department said real campfires on a stage like that were against the fire code.) The most obvious technical delight was the functional truck driven by the Joads to California. The scope of this show was sweeping and epic. It had a cinema-like grace to it. Popovich’s fibre-optic drop of glistening stars was 40 feet wide and 36 feet high and provided the awe and mystery of a desert sky at night.

Helping to create the mood of the era was delightful authentic hammered dulcimer music played by Loretta Vickerman, fiddle music by Jim McKinney and appropriate folk songs describing the era and the situation sung and performed by Jack Price on guitar.

To help prepare for their roles, many of the cast-members spent time during the summer helping out at the Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Detroit. A portion of the proceeds of this production will be donated to COTS.

The play closes its run this weekend, but there are still five performances left. The show runs about three hours.

1993 Page Award Winners
Outstanding Achievement By A Technical Director: Thomas Anderson
Outstanding Achievement In A Non – Musical: Dr. George Popovich
Outstanding Achievement By A Director In A Non – Musical: Dr. George Popovich
Outstanding Achievement In Set Design: Thomas Anderson
Outstanding Achievement In Sound Design: Dr. George Popovich
Outstanding Achievement In Special Effects Design: Dr. George Popovich

American College Theatre Festival
Irene Ryan Nominations

City of Dearborn
Artist-Performer Award-Dr. George Popovich


  • 1st Narrator: Yvonne P. Thomas
  • Jim Casey: Joe Hickey
  • Tom Joad: Brent Wellman
  • Muley Graves: Paul Rossen
  • Willy: Darryl Strasser
  • Man with a Guitar: Jack Price
  • Pa: Stan Newman
  • Granma: Bernadette Cassiday
  • Granpa: Jerry Burd
  • Noah: Jack C. Valian
  • Ruthie: Shannon Murphy
  • Uncle John: Sergio Mautone
  • Winfield: Parker Plague
  • Rose of Sharon: Tracey Spada
  • Connie Rivers: Andy Huff
  • Al: Darrly Stasser
  • Camp Proprietor: Charlie Price
  • Camp People: Andrea Lynn, Campbell Reyes, Corrine Fine, Laura Cindy Plague, Emily Murphy, Jaclyn Davis, Ivonne P. Thomas, Sarah Percy, Pat White, Rachel Jean Worswick, Belva Daly, Ann Maris Suchyta, Debra Greka
  • Man Going Back: Kevin Walsh
  • Gas Station Attendant: Kevin Walsh
  • Station Owner: Tom Dickieson
  • 2nd Narrator: Yvonna P. Thomas
  • Agricultural Officers: Kerry Plague, Charlie Price
  • Mayor of Hooverville: Tom Dickieson
  • Floyd Knowles: Kevin Walsh
  • Floyd’s Wife: Sarah Percy
  • Contractor: Charlie Price
  • Deputy Sheriff: Kerry Pague
  • Wounded Woman: Pat White
  • Officer-Deputy: Jack C. Valian
  • Weedpatch Camp Director: Jerry Burd
  • Al’s Girl: Debra Greka
  • Elizabeth Sandry: Corrinne Fine
  • 3rd Narrators: Jorden Rossen/ Pat White
  • Hooper Ranch Bookkeeper: Kevin Walsh
  • Men at Casey’s Camp: Charlie Price, Jack C. Valian, Andy Huff, Kerry Plague
  • 4th Narrator: Ivonne P. Thomas
  • Mrs. Wainwright: Sarah Percy
  • Starving Woman’s Husband: Kevin Walsh
  • Starving Woman: Sarah Percy
  • Joad’s Dog: “Honey”
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