Grapes of Wrath to kick off theater department’s latest season

Directed by theatre professor David Rzeszutek, SVSU will host the production “Grapes of Wrath” at the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts starting Wednesday, October 15 at 7:30. General admission for the show is $13, and admission is $10 for students.

“Grapes of Wrath” will be Rzeszutek’s 16th production at SVSU. This year will be the 75th anniversary of the first printing of the Grapes of Wrath novel, which made timing seem appropriate, according to Rzeszutek.

“I have been a fan of Steinbeck’s work for quite some time and have read all of his novels,” Rzeszutek said. “I thought the show would be an excellent challenge for our students to work on their craft.”

The entire production process for “Grapes” and other productions of the sort, requires months of preparation from both the director and the design team. After which, auditions, rehearsals and opening night occur over an entire span of five weeks.

Jonah Conner will play the role of Tom Joad, Charkey Mushatt will play Ma and Jordan Stafford will play Jim Casy. Actors were chosen for their roles based off an audition.

“They had strong auditions and they seemed to fit the part, or I felt they would be able to expand their craft by working on their role,” Rzeszutek said.

“Grapes of Wrath” will be theater major sophomore Jonah Conner’s sixth production at SVSU. He was grateful to hear the news of the part he landed.

“I prepared intensely for the audition, so when I saw the cast list, I was proud of the preparation and hard work I put into it,” Conner said.

Rzeszutek made the assertion that not all actors on stage are theater majors or minors, therefore, you do not need to be in the theater program at SVSU to get involved with a theatre department production. Within “Grapes of Wrath” specifically, there are students from multiple departments within the near 40 actors involved.

In regards to the finder details of the production, Rzeszutek talks highly about certain scenes the team has been working on.

“I’m really drawn to the scenes between the family members as they work through their challenges. I’ve always been impressed by the selflessness that is displayed in the last scene of the novel/play,” Rzeszutek said.

Not only are the scenes fulfilling to viewers, but also cast members, as well.

“The scenes I have with Ma feel very realistic to me. The chemistry we share on stage really helps drive me throughout the show,” Conner said.

Despite the story for “Grapes of Wrath” being 75 years old, Rzeszutek notices striking similarities between problems faced by students and individuals today. Rzeszutek is hoping that students of SVSU will take note of this and reflect on it.

“I hope the production will make people think. Seventy-five years after the novel was first published, the storyline is hauntingly similar to today. We have many people who are having a hard time finding work, many people who have foreclosed on their homes and many people who are driven by their hope for a better tomorrow,” Rzeszutek said.

Conner also thinks parallels can be drawn between the themes prevalent in the production, despite the time it was written.

“This show may seem like a historical piece, but it is one of the most modern—feeling shows I’ve ever been in. A lot of the circumstances that happen in the show still happen today. If anyone has the chance to see it, do; because you will learn about the past, put possibly the future,” Conner said.

After the first show on Wednesday, shows for “Grapes of Wrath” will show at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Sunday will be the only date with a time difference, taking place at 3 p.m. rather than 7:30. For more information on the production, students can contact the Box Office at (989)-964-4261.

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