We’re a week away from the opening of “The Grapes of Wrath” at the ASOLO REPERTORY THEATER (March 14), and Carmela and Sara are caught up in the excitement of a grueling rehearsal schedule. It has been an amazing experience for them, working with a talented cast and musical director, Tim Grimm. Frank Galati’s Tony Award winning play brings all the power of the original novel to the stage, and the Asolo has gone all out in the production. The scenic design is ambitious and extraordinary, capturing a sense of a family’s long trip across a country in the grip of an economic crisis, across the expansive landscape of the western U.S. as hope gradually gives way to desperation.They are actually bringing the Colorado River to the stage!
Tim Grimm’s original music is poignant and powerful, and provides atmosphere as well as narrative continuity to the scenes. He has recruited Carmela and Sara as the other two musicians and the three of them will be on stage, in costume, throughout the play. In addition to vocals, Sara plays fiddle and Carmela switches between guitar, mandolin and banjo. At some moments, they play one of Tim’s original compositions, but they also get to play some traditional songs from the period. Sometimes they are softly improvising tunes to underscore something happening in the dialogue, sometimes they are part of the scene, as when they serve as the band for the square dance. You can get some of the flavor from the trailer the Asolo has put up on youTube. HERE is a video of Tim talking about the way they’ve done the music.
The play itself is certainly worth seeing, in many ways as relevant today as it was during the Depression era itself. According to the Asolo’s web page: “Infused with live music, this wonderfully theatrical production tells the story of a nation through the eyes of the Joad family, driven from the dust bowl of Oklahoma toward the promised land of California in search of a new home, jobs and dignity. Part naturalistic epic, part road trip and part inspirational gospel, The Grapes of Wrath is a soaring affirmation of the goodness, strength and perseverance of the human spirit.”In spite of the demands of the rehearsal schedule for “Grapes,” we’ve still managed to get a few shows in. We were thrilled to share a bill on February 22nd with our friends from Tallahassee, The New 76ers (photo by Danny Goddard). They were, as always, spectacular– just having finished their new CD (which everyone has to order right away). It was also a particularly interesting show for us because we were performing as a trio. Honestly, we weren’t sure how it would sound without a bass player, but we found that we really enjoyed the relatively clean and clear sound that allowed every instrument to stand out. (Thanks in large part, of course, to Dave Beaton who was running sound.) The audience responded very enthusiastically as well, commenting on the clarity of the sound. We’re rehearsing with a new bass player for the future, but plan to do house concerts and small shows as a trio as well.
In the immediate future:
Grapes of Wrath opens on March 14 (with previews, if you are so inclined, on March 12 and 13). Tickets are available at www.asolorep.org.
We’ll be playing a couple of sets on March 15 at the Sarasota County Fair, on the “Crackerland” stage at 5:30 and 7:30. Check out their Facebook page.
We’ll be at the St Patrick’s Day party at the Shamrock Pub, March 17.
On March 24, Passerine will be joining Tim Grimm and Joe Crookston for a benefit concert. More details to come!