CSC's GRAPES OF WRATH Opens 3/30

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Cincinnati Shakespeare Company continues its eighteenth season with John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" in an adaptation by Frank Galati. This production features CSC Ensemble Members Justin McCombs, Sherman Fracher and Drew Fracher and is directed by Brian Isaac Phillips. "The Grapes of Wrath" opens on March 30th and runs through April 29, 2012. The production design is generously sponsored by AAA.

Frank Galati's Tony Award-winning adaptation of "The Grapes of Wrath" tells a tale of endurance and hope in a time of hardship. Having survived the drought of the 1930s only to see their home repossessed, the Joad family embarks on a harrowing journey from the Dust Bowl fields of Oklahoma to the fertile orchards of California. But the "promised land" is far from what they imagined and the Joads must attempt to overcome the injustices that plague a nation in crisis. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is proud to present this deeply moving story about the pursuit of the American Dream in the face of adversity at a time when many Americans are facing adversity of their own.

"The Grapes of Wrath" is a 1988 play adapted by Frank Galati from the classic John Steinbeck novel of the same name. The play debuted at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, followed by a May 1989 production at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego and a June 1989 production at the Royal National Theatre in London. The Broadway production opened the next year directed by Galati and starring Gary Sinise. "The Grapes of Wrath" won the Tony award for Best Play in 1990 and was nominated for 7 additional Tony Awards and 5 Drama Desk Awards. This award-winning adaption of "The Grapes of Wrath" continues to be performed most recently enjoying a successful run at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada.

This production is directed by Brian Isaac Phillips, CSC's Producing Artistic Director, who has directed this season's successful runs of "Henry VIII: All is True", "Shakespeare's Will", "Macbeth", "A Man for All Seasons" and "Bedroom Farce". He also helmed last season's productions of "Blithe Spirit", "Dracula", "The Life and Death of King John", "The Handmaid's Tale" (world premiere) and "The Two Gentlemen of Verona". Brian says of "The Grapes of Wrath" that "this story is the definitive portrait of a family struggling to hold on to their dignity in the face of adversity. This novel has been dear to me for many years, as has the play. I am ecstatic that we have the opportunity to bring it to life now, especially when the journey of the Joad family has become so timely."

Joining the company on stage for this production is Justin McCombs as Tom Joad. Mr. McCombs is currently CSC's Resident Stage Manager. A sixth year member of the company, Justin has most recently been seen on stage in the wildly Popular Productions of "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!)" and "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)". Last season, he played Mr. Bingley in CSC's sold-out run of Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice" adapted by Jon Jory. He received his theatre degree from Western Illinois University in 2004. Some of his favorite roles at CSC also include Konstantin in "The Seagull", Paul Bratter in "Barefoot in the Park" and Antipholus of Syracuse in "The Comedy of Errors".

Ninth year CSC resident ensemble member, Sherman Fracher returns to play the powerful matriarch, Ma Joad. She was seen at CSC most recently as Mrs. Jennings in "Sense & Sensibility" and as Anne in the captivating one-woman show "Shakespeare's Will" which ran this past winter. Some of her past favorite productions at CSC include "The Seagull", "Othello", "The Winter's Tale", "A Streetcar Named Desire", "Chagrin Falls", "The Beard of Avon", "Arcadia" and "Twelfth Night". She is an advocate for MS research, raising funds with performances of "Above the 37th Parallel". Other theatres for which she has worked include Actor's Express, Actor's Theatre of Louisville, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Georgia Shakespeare, The Human Race Theatre Company, and American Stage. She is joined on stage by her real life husband, Drew Fracher as Pa Joad. He is a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, The Society of American Fight Directors and has designed and choreographed fights for this production. A favorite director at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company for many years, CSC is pleased to feature Drew on our stage. Drew Fracher most recently directed CSC's acclaimed production of "Sense and Sensibility" and CSC's 2010 production of William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing". As a director he has worked at a wide variety of theatres in addition to Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, including Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, the Human Race Theatre Co., Florida Stage, Playhouse on the Square, American Stage Theatre Co. and the Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia Shakespeare Festivals.

Music is an integral part of the telling of this story, and CSC has endeavored to help bring this element to the stage in the most authentic way possible. One of the more unique components included in the production design of "The Grapes of Wrath" is the incorporation of live music. A house band, comprised of CSC company members, Jeremy Dubin, Sara Clark, Cary Davenport, Kelly Mengelkoch, Ellen Beltramo and Miranda McGee, singing and playing string and percussion instruments, will serve as an essential part of the story as it unfolds on stage. The music has been arranged by Cary Davenport and Jeremy Dubin and is based on text found in the original novel by Steinbeck. Popular local performer, Jake Speed, will perform in CSC's lobby on opening night March 30 to further immerse audience members into the world of the Joads.

"The Grapes of Wrath" calls for challenging design elements on stage to recreate the world and the journey through the 1930's dust bowl. The production design team of "The Grapes of Wrath" has risen to the challenge of presenting this epic and vast tale on CSC's intimate stage. The team includes costume designer Amy Rawe, an NKU graduate who recently designed this season's production of "Macbeth", Scenic and Lighting Designer Andrew Hungerford and Sound Designer Doug Brontrager to create the world of the Joad's journey from Oklahoma to California. The production also features an important set piece, the Joad's truck, entirely designed and constructed by CSC to be used on stage during the performance.

"The Grapes of Wrath" also marks the first production in which CSC will be fully utilizing their grand prize as the winners of the LED Source® LEDko Challenge on Jan. 31, 2012. CSC received a complete LED lighting makeover worth $20,000 after being chosen among dozens of staging, education, studio, installation, and theater professionals throughout North America who participated in the contest. Contestants each submitted a video of their lackluster lighting systems to be considered for a complete LED lighting upgrade. As the grand prize winner, CSC has had their aging, energy-draining stage lighting replaced with eight Reflection LEDko fixtures by Coemar, the sponsor of the contest.

Performances of "The Grapes of Wrath" are scheduled from March 30- April 29, 2012 on Thursday, Friday & Saturday evenings at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Preview performances are on March 28 & 29, and tickets are only $14. No performance on Sunday April 1st or 8th. The theater is located at 719 Race Street, downtown Cincinnati, two blocks west of the Aronoff Center. Single ticket prices range from $22-$28 on Thursday Nights and Sunday Matinees and from $26-$32 on Friday and Saturday Nights. Ticketing fees may apply. Visa, Discover, MasterCard, and American Express are accepted. Discounts are available for students, seniors and groups as well as Enjoy the Arts and AAA members. To purchase tickets or for more information, call the CSC Box Office at 513.381.BARD (2273) ext. 1, or go online at www.cincyshakes.com.

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