/page/2

Acknowledgements

My sincere gratitude to all of the following for their support in this endeavor:

NB- My advisor/mentor/sounding board on this project; for his seemingly infinite wisdom and guidance. I wish I could elaborate upon my thanks but I’m not sure if my writing will ever capture how much I have truly learned as your “dramapprentice”. 

Susan Kerner, affectionately called Susie K- our director and captain of this massive undertaking; for letting me create my own dramaturgical path via blog inputs and for welcoming me along for the Grapes ride. 

Heather Benton for exposing me to movement based work and exercises, and letting me explore new ways of playing as an actress and dramaturg. 

Our AD Scott and Stage Manager Lauren, whose talents equal their immense work ethics. I look forward to seeing them flourish in their professional careers. 

Emma, Jen, Laura, Jesse, and all other members of the Grapes crew, who never once became sour grapes throughout the arduous, long and sometimes difficult process. 

The incredible beyond words cast who continually amazed me throughout rehearsals and the run of the show. I’d like to think that “making it” in this business requires 10% talent and 90% professionalism. Here’s to you, thirtysomething of the most professional and down to earth actors I have met in my life. I’ll miss making my “break a leg” rounds before the shows. A special kudos to the seniors, who I’ll be ecstatic to stand with on May 14th. 

Thank you, Michael Allen, for being my last minute hero and printing a beautiful poster of my statement for the show. I don’t think my writing has ever been so simple or so pretty. Thanks also to Eric Diamond, Department Chair, for allowing me this scholarly opportunity.

Next up for me…MSU Student Symposium on April 16th, presenting my work on Grapes. Acting as Alice O’Reilly in dis connect, the original world premiere devised piece at MSU from Apr. 14-21. GRADUATION. Law School….and that’s as far as I can see for now. I’m still writing, numerous things: a compilation of true short stories, a feminist view of advertising and consumerism and a daily account of The Cosmopolitan Challenge, in homage to Jamie Keiles and http://www.theseventeenmagazineproject.com/ . (PS- Keiles is an amazing writer and young woman. Check it out.) 

I’ll miss you, tumblrs. Thanks for the ride :)

My Method- A Final Reflection

Most, if not all theater students are familiar with the methods and studies of Stanislavski, Meisner, Hagen and more. Oftentimes universities will teach along the guidelines of one strict method. At Montclair, the actors are introduced to the ideas presented behind each method and study a number of performance styles. They are given a “toolbox” of various ways to connect with a character. Body, voice, text- it’s all intertwined and offered as a buffet of acting choices.

Working on the Grapes of Wrath has exposed me to a whole range of exercises, routines, structure and ways of looking at theater. I am not a proponent or student of any strict method, but I have developed my own theory on acting, based in dramaturgy (no surprise here).

I believe that at the heart of every theatrical piece lies a purpose. This purpose is not character driven or rooted within the goings on of the show. This is the thing (for lack of a more specific term), the core of the production and what makes it relevant. It’s not just about the Joads’ journey to California, and their struggle to survive. It’s about our journeys and the challenges humankind faces everyday. This is why Grapes is relevant, this is why it’s so important to tell a clear, connected story, and this is what, I am proud to report, we have achieved.

I am a firm believer in social responsibility, and the job we have as theater artists to connect and reflect upon the outside world. The seeds of this theory began during last year’s Theater for Social Change class, led by playwright and Montclair alum Jason Grote. Through texts, both dramatic and political, he stressed the importance of theater with meaning. I had always been a fan of more lighthearted, Broadway type fare (still am; musicals have their purpose, too!), and didn’t quite grasp the need for drama with an understated message. It was reinforced, however, when my senior Dramatic Criticism professor Dr. Jane Peterson asked us to find each play’s “heartbeat”- the guts, the innards. It’s not about specific places, references or people- it’s about you. And me. And us. And this fantastical and complicated world we inhabit.

Through many previous stories and articles I have expressed the importance of a production like Grapes of Wrath at this moment in time. It was my desire and goal as Dramaturg to help the actors clearly communicate the meaning of Grapes, through my research and reflections. I hope every audience member left the theater with a sense of connectedness to both the story and their fellow man. 

Grapes isn’t just important to the immediate community or to the world (which seems important enough in itself). It is a vital part of theatrical history. Grapes is a remarkable piece of literature, taken by Frank Galati and the Steppenwolf Theater Company and shaped into a beautiful piece of theater. Our specific production honored the original, and answered the question of how far you can push the boundaries within a proscenium: infinitely. While the cast strove to create realistic portrayals of humanity, the crew labored away on perfectly detailed period sets, practiced and configured extremely complicated technical maneuvers and essentially created a world in no time at all.

This is why a thriving theatrical community continues to remain crucial in the United States. We are a living, breathing art with the ability to change structure within, thus influencing change outside of our world. We have the gift of providing entertainment as well as perspective. We are the Joads of this economy, fighting and struggling to survive. The theatrical community is now facing the grapes of wrath, and in order to promote change we must stand strong in our resolve. Actors, techies, critics- from those who take tickets to the upper echelons of the dramatic world, we are all society’s voice.

One of the first things I learned as a theater major (in Susan Kerner’s class, aptly enough) was all that you needed for basic theater are actors and an audience. We as theater artists will continue to record, reflect, rewrite and exist as the world’s mirror as long as someone is watching.

Read All About It

Just got out of our Theater Day matinee and was pleasantly surprised to see MSU alum Brandon Monokian’s article on Grapes was published. It’s a wonderful piece- enjoy!

It’s Showtime…

Here we are. It’s hard to believe March 9th is actually here, considering I’ve been attached to Grapes since June of 2010. My journey as Dramaturg on this show has been an incredible one, and an invaluable experience.

I was unable to print my insert for the Grapes program due to time and budgetary constraints, but I am happy to share it with the blog followers and hope you will keep this in mind as you experience the performance. *I have heard the insert may be printed on posters displayed in the lobby; this would be a completely welcome surprise and something I look forward to seeing*

So, loyal Tumblr followers, as I near the end of my time with Grapes I pass the baton to you, in hopes that you will take away as much as I have from this poignant story.I will post my final thoughts after closing night, so stay tuned.

_______________________________

The Grapes of Wrath at MSU

You are about to witness an epic narrative.

Not only in the theatrical sense, but in the genuine retelling of one of America’s treasured literary classics. After the novel by John Steinbeck was published in 1939, proponents of unionized labor, including Eleanor Roosevelt, took notice and subsequently took action. The novel also caught the attention of anti-Communist groups, believing Steinbeck to have sympathies towards the Socialist movement. He was spared the political witch hunt, however, and was able to see the fruits of his labor blossom into regulated labor laws and widespread unionization.

Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning saga was transformed for the stage by Frank Galati for the Steppenwolf Theater in 1988, bringing the novel to three-dimensional life. Indeed, this play reaches far beyond the proscenium, recreating the journey of a family struggling to maintain its dignity in the face of extreme adversity, a theme that has become all too familiar in recent years.

 

You need only read the newspapers to see the Joads’ story jumping off the page and into the current headlines. The core issues in The Grapes of Wrath that Steinbeck so eloquently argued for are now being contested. He likened his novel to putting a “tag of shame” on those responsible for the Great Depression, and Grapes continues today to identify the injustices in society, especially in light of our country’s current economic and social predicaments. Recent union protests in Wisconsin are mirror images of the play’s penultimate scenes. Citizens and immigrants alike are traveling across the country in search of jobs that are few and far between. Hardly anyone has escaped the tumultuous economic downfall of the past few years unscathed, and the number of Americans who have lost their homes is tantamount to tragedy.

The Grapes of Wrath, the story of a family during the Dust Bowl era, is also a reflection of the American people in 2011, another crucial moment in the complex narrative of history. The production you are about to see serves its purpose of entertainment while delivering a message of perseverance and strength that America desperately needs now.

Kristen Hariton, Production Dramaturg. March 9-12, 2011

Tech Time

Today is the first full day of tech at Kasser. For all the elements of the show it’s actually extremely organized and calm (as of 10:30 AM). The cast is milling about the green room, anxious to hit the stage

The set is unreal. I wish I could upload one of the many pictures I’ve taken, but I’ll wait until Thursday after opening night. Czerton managed to design a set that was both detailed and minimalist, making it incredibly adaptive. Justin’s lighting designs transform the weathered wood and wash it in golden hues for daylight or midnight blue during the storm. While the fly rail moves scene pieces in and out and the lighting team fiddles with cues and instruments, Jana, the sound designer, tests various effects through the speakers. Birds chirping, thunder roaring; this is all happening simultaneously, of course, each technician doing their job with seamless confidence. 

The gigantic wall that needs to move between acts is too heavy for one fly rail captain to move. As a former fly girl (yes, I went literally crazy in Crazy for You), I know how crucial timing is to moving set pieces in and out. Interestingly, Bret (Casy) has been tapped to help move the wall from the fly rail, proving cast and crew are truly integrated. 

Hour one of tech has come and gone and we’re just about to start the full rehearsal, adding the actors to the never-ending list of technical elements. There’s a minor problem regarding microphones and equipment, but everyone has buckled down and determined to go through. 

What’s interesting for me is figuring out what my role is in these proceedings. I’m fulfilling my role as observer and documenting the process as a whole now, but later I might become a food runner, actor wrangler, note taker, message deliverer. It’s an exciting time for me. I’ve already been labeled company baker, as I’ve delivered upon my promise of baking Angry Grapes cupcakes for the company. I’m quite proud of my creation and will have to post a picture. 

Global Happenings

Thanks to Bret (Casy) for this highly parallel topic. Over four entire villages in the densely populated country of India have been displaced due to construction of the Ukai dam. These migrants no longer have “villager” status, putting their voting rights into jeopardy. It’s strikingly similar to our California journey.

Also, here’s another update on Wisconsin: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704150604576165630210533872.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_5

The bill has passed in the House regarding budgetary collective bargaining rights. From the WSJ, “If the bill passes in its current form, public workers will have to vote on whether they still want their unions to represent them, and it will become harder for unions to collect dues from their members.”

Casy's Fight in the Modern Day

It’s happening. The grapes of wrath have hit Wisconsin, and the end result will be anything but fruitful. Budgetary concerns have pit the governor against the state labor unions, recalling visions of Casy’s last stand for unionizing at the end of the play.

The heart of the matter is what Casy was trying to tell Tom all along: Strength lies in collective bargaining. Wis. Governor Scott Walker has taken steps to remove that advantage from the table. If people can’t bargain as a union then it effectively destroys the power unions hold. It’s interesting how certain politicians accuse unions of being decidedly anti-American when one of our founding principles as a nation is to come together, united. Lincoln Mitchell writes, “On the other hand, the critical role labor unions have played in the expansion of basic economic rights not just to their members, but to the society more broadly, and the extent to which they are integral to preserving these endangered rights for future generations, on the other hand, is barely known at all by many Americans.” It’s a scary thought, knowing we may very well be headed towards the American dark ages: a market without fair labor bargaining. Can you imagine picking fruit for 5 cents a barrel?

To read Mitchell’s article, click the above title.

The Home Stretch

At the end of next week the production moves into Kasser. A full weekend of tech, two days of dress rehearsals, and we open on the ninth. It’s been a long journey, and I’m sure most of the cast and crew feel similarly to the Joads after their cross-country migration: exhausted yet exhilarated.

In between popping in and out of rehearsals sporadically, I’ve been compiling my research and thoughts on this entire experience into a holistic entry, which I’ll post on Closing Night. It’s crazy to see how much time has passed since I first began my personal journey with Grapes last summer. What started as an old novel I was assigned to read in high school became a historical and social experience, one which I have certainly learned a great deal from.

My research (the blog, packets, additional reference information) has been submitted to the MSU Student Research Symposium, to be presented on April 16, 2011 on campus. Coincidentally this is a performance date of my next show, dis connect, which I’ll be acting in. As every theater student at Montclair knows well, once one project ends another swiftly begins.

Acknowledgements

My sincere gratitude to all of the following for their support in this endeavor:

NB- My advisor/mentor/sounding board on this project; for his seemingly infinite wisdom and guidance. I wish I could elaborate upon my thanks but I’m not sure if my writing will ever capture how much I have truly learned as your “dramapprentice”. 

Susan Kerner, affectionately called Susie K- our director and captain of this massive undertaking; for letting me create my own dramaturgical path via blog inputs and for welcoming me along for the Grapes ride. 

Heather Benton for exposing me to movement based work and exercises, and letting me explore new ways of playing as an actress and dramaturg. 

Our AD Scott and Stage Manager Lauren, whose talents equal their immense work ethics. I look forward to seeing them flourish in their professional careers. 

Emma, Jen, Laura, Jesse, and all other members of the Grapes crew, who never once became sour grapes throughout the arduous, long and sometimes difficult process. 

The incredible beyond words cast who continually amazed me throughout rehearsals and the run of the show. I’d like to think that “making it” in this business requires 10% talent and 90% professionalism. Here’s to you, thirtysomething of the most professional and down to earth actors I have met in my life. I’ll miss making my “break a leg” rounds before the shows. A special kudos to the seniors, who I’ll be ecstatic to stand with on May 14th. 

Thank you, Michael Allen, for being my last minute hero and printing a beautiful poster of my statement for the show. I don’t think my writing has ever been so simple or so pretty. Thanks also to Eric Diamond, Department Chair, for allowing me this scholarly opportunity.

Next up for me…MSU Student Symposium on April 16th, presenting my work on Grapes. Acting as Alice O’Reilly in dis connect, the original world premiere devised piece at MSU from Apr. 14-21. GRADUATION. Law School….and that’s as far as I can see for now. I’m still writing, numerous things: a compilation of true short stories, a feminist view of advertising and consumerism and a daily account of The Cosmopolitan Challenge, in homage to Jamie Keiles and http://www.theseventeenmagazineproject.com/ . (PS- Keiles is an amazing writer and young woman. Check it out.) 

I’ll miss you, tumblrs. Thanks for the ride :)

My Method- A Final Reflection

Most, if not all theater students are familiar with the methods and studies of Stanislavski, Meisner, Hagen and more. Oftentimes universities will teach along the guidelines of one strict method. At Montclair, the actors are introduced to the ideas presented behind each method and study a number of performance styles. They are given a “toolbox” of various ways to connect with a character. Body, voice, text- it’s all intertwined and offered as a buffet of acting choices.

Working on the Grapes of Wrath has exposed me to a whole range of exercises, routines, structure and ways of looking at theater. I am not a proponent or student of any strict method, but I have developed my own theory on acting, based in dramaturgy (no surprise here).

I believe that at the heart of every theatrical piece lies a purpose. This purpose is not character driven or rooted within the goings on of the show. This is the thing (for lack of a more specific term), the core of the production and what makes it relevant. It’s not just about the Joads’ journey to California, and their struggle to survive. It’s about our journeys and the challenges humankind faces everyday. This is why Grapes is relevant, this is why it’s so important to tell a clear, connected story, and this is what, I am proud to report, we have achieved.

I am a firm believer in social responsibility, and the job we have as theater artists to connect and reflect upon the outside world. The seeds of this theory began during last year’s Theater for Social Change class, led by playwright and Montclair alum Jason Grote. Through texts, both dramatic and political, he stressed the importance of theater with meaning. I had always been a fan of more lighthearted, Broadway type fare (still am; musicals have their purpose, too!), and didn’t quite grasp the need for drama with an understated message. It was reinforced, however, when my senior Dramatic Criticism professor Dr. Jane Peterson asked us to find each play’s “heartbeat”- the guts, the innards. It’s not about specific places, references or people- it’s about you. And me. And us. And this fantastical and complicated world we inhabit.

Through many previous stories and articles I have expressed the importance of a production like Grapes of Wrath at this moment in time. It was my desire and goal as Dramaturg to help the actors clearly communicate the meaning of Grapes, through my research and reflections. I hope every audience member left the theater with a sense of connectedness to both the story and their fellow man. 

Grapes isn’t just important to the immediate community or to the world (which seems important enough in itself). It is a vital part of theatrical history. Grapes is a remarkable piece of literature, taken by Frank Galati and the Steppenwolf Theater Company and shaped into a beautiful piece of theater. Our specific production honored the original, and answered the question of how far you can push the boundaries within a proscenium: infinitely. While the cast strove to create realistic portrayals of humanity, the crew labored away on perfectly detailed period sets, practiced and configured extremely complicated technical maneuvers and essentially created a world in no time at all.

This is why a thriving theatrical community continues to remain crucial in the United States. We are a living, breathing art with the ability to change structure within, thus influencing change outside of our world. We have the gift of providing entertainment as well as perspective. We are the Joads of this economy, fighting and struggling to survive. The theatrical community is now facing the grapes of wrath, and in order to promote change we must stand strong in our resolve. Actors, techies, critics- from those who take tickets to the upper echelons of the dramatic world, we are all society’s voice.

One of the first things I learned as a theater major (in Susan Kerner’s class, aptly enough) was all that you needed for basic theater are actors and an audience. We as theater artists will continue to record, reflect, rewrite and exist as the world’s mirror as long as someone is watching.

Read All About It

Just got out of our Theater Day matinee and was pleasantly surprised to see MSU alum Brandon Monokian’s article on Grapes was published. It’s a wonderful piece- enjoy!

It’s Showtime…

Here we are. It’s hard to believe March 9th is actually here, considering I’ve been attached to Grapes since June of 2010. My journey as Dramaturg on this show has been an incredible one, and an invaluable experience.

I was unable to print my insert for the Grapes program due to time and budgetary constraints, but I am happy to share it with the blog followers and hope you will keep this in mind as you experience the performance. *I have heard the insert may be printed on posters displayed in the lobby; this would be a completely welcome surprise and something I look forward to seeing*

So, loyal Tumblr followers, as I near the end of my time with Grapes I pass the baton to you, in hopes that you will take away as much as I have from this poignant story.I will post my final thoughts after closing night, so stay tuned.

_______________________________

The Grapes of Wrath at MSU

You are about to witness an epic narrative.

Not only in the theatrical sense, but in the genuine retelling of one of America’s treasured literary classics. After the novel by John Steinbeck was published in 1939, proponents of unionized labor, including Eleanor Roosevelt, took notice and subsequently took action. The novel also caught the attention of anti-Communist groups, believing Steinbeck to have sympathies towards the Socialist movement. He was spared the political witch hunt, however, and was able to see the fruits of his labor blossom into regulated labor laws and widespread unionization.

Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning saga was transformed for the stage by Frank Galati for the Steppenwolf Theater in 1988, bringing the novel to three-dimensional life. Indeed, this play reaches far beyond the proscenium, recreating the journey of a family struggling to maintain its dignity in the face of extreme adversity, a theme that has become all too familiar in recent years.

 

You need only read the newspapers to see the Joads’ story jumping off the page and into the current headlines. The core issues in The Grapes of Wrath that Steinbeck so eloquently argued for are now being contested. He likened his novel to putting a “tag of shame” on those responsible for the Great Depression, and Grapes continues today to identify the injustices in society, especially in light of our country’s current economic and social predicaments. Recent union protests in Wisconsin are mirror images of the play’s penultimate scenes. Citizens and immigrants alike are traveling across the country in search of jobs that are few and far between. Hardly anyone has escaped the tumultuous economic downfall of the past few years unscathed, and the number of Americans who have lost their homes is tantamount to tragedy.

The Grapes of Wrath, the story of a family during the Dust Bowl era, is also a reflection of the American people in 2011, another crucial moment in the complex narrative of history. The production you are about to see serves its purpose of entertainment while delivering a message of perseverance and strength that America desperately needs now.

Kristen Hariton, Production Dramaturg. March 9-12, 2011

Tech Time

Today is the first full day of tech at Kasser. For all the elements of the show it’s actually extremely organized and calm (as of 10:30 AM). The cast is milling about the green room, anxious to hit the stage

The set is unreal. I wish I could upload one of the many pictures I’ve taken, but I’ll wait until Thursday after opening night. Czerton managed to design a set that was both detailed and minimalist, making it incredibly adaptive. Justin’s lighting designs transform the weathered wood and wash it in golden hues for daylight or midnight blue during the storm. While the fly rail moves scene pieces in and out and the lighting team fiddles with cues and instruments, Jana, the sound designer, tests various effects through the speakers. Birds chirping, thunder roaring; this is all happening simultaneously, of course, each technician doing their job with seamless confidence. 

The gigantic wall that needs to move between acts is too heavy for one fly rail captain to move. As a former fly girl (yes, I went literally crazy in Crazy for You), I know how crucial timing is to moving set pieces in and out. Interestingly, Bret (Casy) has been tapped to help move the wall from the fly rail, proving cast and crew are truly integrated. 

Hour one of tech has come and gone and we’re just about to start the full rehearsal, adding the actors to the never-ending list of technical elements. There’s a minor problem regarding microphones and equipment, but everyone has buckled down and determined to go through. 

What’s interesting for me is figuring out what my role is in these proceedings. I’m fulfilling my role as observer and documenting the process as a whole now, but later I might become a food runner, actor wrangler, note taker, message deliverer. It’s an exciting time for me. I’ve already been labeled company baker, as I’ve delivered upon my promise of baking Angry Grapes cupcakes for the company. I’m quite proud of my creation and will have to post a picture. 

Global Happenings

Thanks to Bret (Casy) for this highly parallel topic. Over four entire villages in the densely populated country of India have been displaced due to construction of the Ukai dam. These migrants no longer have “villager” status, putting their voting rights into jeopardy. It’s strikingly similar to our California journey.

Also, here’s another update on Wisconsin: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704150604576165630210533872.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_5

The bill has passed in the House regarding budgetary collective bargaining rights. From the WSJ, “If the bill passes in its current form, public workers will have to vote on whether they still want their unions to represent them, and it will become harder for unions to collect dues from their members.”

Casy's Fight in the Modern Day

It’s happening. The grapes of wrath have hit Wisconsin, and the end result will be anything but fruitful. Budgetary concerns have pit the governor against the state labor unions, recalling visions of Casy’s last stand for unionizing at the end of the play.

The heart of the matter is what Casy was trying to tell Tom all along: Strength lies in collective bargaining. Wis. Governor Scott Walker has taken steps to remove that advantage from the table. If people can’t bargain as a union then it effectively destroys the power unions hold. It’s interesting how certain politicians accuse unions of being decidedly anti-American when one of our founding principles as a nation is to come together, united. Lincoln Mitchell writes, “On the other hand, the critical role labor unions have played in the expansion of basic economic rights not just to their members, but to the society more broadly, and the extent to which they are integral to preserving these endangered rights for future generations, on the other hand, is barely known at all by many Americans.” It’s a scary thought, knowing we may very well be headed towards the American dark ages: a market without fair labor bargaining. Can you imagine picking fruit for 5 cents a barrel?

To read Mitchell’s article, click the above title.

The Home Stretch

At the end of next week the production moves into Kasser. A full weekend of tech, two days of dress rehearsals, and we open on the ninth. It’s been a long journey, and I’m sure most of the cast and crew feel similarly to the Joads after their cross-country migration: exhausted yet exhilarated.

In between popping in and out of rehearsals sporadically, I’ve been compiling my research and thoughts on this entire experience into a holistic entry, which I’ll post on Closing Night. It’s crazy to see how much time has passed since I first began my personal journey with Grapes last summer. What started as an old novel I was assigned to read in high school became a historical and social experience, one which I have certainly learned a great deal from.

My research (the blog, packets, additional reference information) has been submitted to the MSU Student Research Symposium, to be presented on April 16, 2011 on campus. Coincidentally this is a performance date of my next show, dis connect, which I’ll be acting in. As every theater student at Montclair knows well, once one project ends another swiftly begins.

Acknowledgements
My Method- A Final Reflection
It’s Showtime…
Tech Time
The Home Stretch

About:

From Steinbeck to the Stage: Frank Galati's adaptation of the literary classic will be presented at Alexander Kasser Theater in Montclair, NJ this Spring (March 9-12, 2011). This is a production journal from the viewpoint of Kristen Hariton, the dramaturg. I will be posting various media references and cultural discoveries to expand upon our understanding of the play, while documenting the process of bringing an epic piece of literature to life.

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