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Ned theater takes on Grapes of Wrath

By Amy Moore

The News staff writer

NEDERLAND — John Steinbeck’s Depression-era tale of the Joad family and their traveling companions in The Grapes of Wrath will soon take center stage in Nederland.

A tale of homeless families willing to do whatever it took to be successful in a time of desperation has become more than a novel for the high school students portraying the characters.

“I had never read it, but heard a lot about it. To me, it’s about pushing forward when there’s no hope left and being optimistic about tomorrow,” Dillon Wright, who plays Jim Casy, said.

The play focuses on the Joads, an Oklahoma family who journeys to California in the 1930s hoping to find work. Along the way, the family encounters death and hardships that change the characters and their beliefs.

Wright, a sophomore, said that although he has been in other plays before, he will leave this character behind having taken away life lessons.

“It’s about hoping when you think your life can’t get any worse,” he said.

Brook Doss, theater teacher at Nederland, said choosing the deep play for her high school students was important.

“I like to pick one show with literary merit, that the kids will learn from,” she said. “This novel won a Pulitzer Prize and the historical aspect of it will help the kids in their history and English classes, too.”

Doss confessed though that the play is a challenging one for her and her students.

“They can’t fully comprehend everything that is going on in this story,” she said. “I think the emotions will hit really hard when we get more into it. We’ve had limited rehearsal time because of football season and I think the kids are overwhelmed but they have met my expectations. They are intelligent students.”

Because of that, Dylan Eccles-Locke, who plays a character who loses her child, said she’s realized how the time period forced people to grow up quickly.

“The story is sad and depressing, but it has a story that is important to all of us,” she said.

Her fellow castmate, Zech Turk, agreed. Turk plays Tom Joad who was recently released from prison and has to come to grips with his anger issues.

“It was a bad time in America and I can see why he was so angry, but he had to learn to take control of his emotions and that’s something that we all need to learn,” he said.

The Grapes of Wrath opens at the Nederland Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1. Another show will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3 and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4. Ticket prices are $3 for students and $5 for adults.