We opened The Grapes of Wrath at Asolo Repertory Theatre on Friday night, and it will go down as one of the most exciting nights of my career. Everything came together to tell the incredible story, and the audience response was amazing. My heartfelt thanks to director Michael Donald Edwards for entrusting the role of Jim Casy to me and for guiding us so well, and to playwright/adaptor Frank Galati, for his ongoing support of our production. Frank and his partner Peter Amster were there, and Peter said watching us was like watching the 25 years since the original Steppenwolf production simply melt away. This play has a painfully timely message about the inequity of the economy in this country, and what “holy” really means. I hope we fill every seat for every performance and raise some consciousnesses.
This is my first production of Grapes and my first experience with true rotating repertory as well. Rotating rep is both demanding and amazing. The day after we opened Grapes, we gave two performances of Chris Durang’s zany comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike after not doing it for a week. If you know the shows, the thought of jumping from the demands of Jim Casy to the demands of Vanya (twice in a day!) is pretty intense. We were high-fiving each other backstage before the curtain call after the evening performance, because we had opened Grapes the night before, had given two darn good Vanya shows, and were still standing. Today, we jump back into a matinee of Philadelphia, Here I Come!, which we also haven’t done in a week due to all the tech rehearsals required for Grapes. Today will feel practically like a vacation!
My hat is off to everyone at Asolo Rep–my directors, fellow cast members, designers, costume shop, set shop, coaches, incredible stage management team, wonderful running crew, unbelievable stage crew (watching them do a changeover from one set to another is mind-blowing!), great front of house, and the incredibly supportive leadership and administrative staff for creating and maintaining such an environment of excellence. It’s a thrill to be “harnessed to the whole shebang.”
To paraphrase my character Jim Casy, we are one thing. And that one thing is holy.