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'Grapes of Wrath' aims to open eyes, wallets to needy
Gainesville Theatre Alliance production to include fair for local charities
GTA resident director Elisa Carlson takes the stage Feb. 14, as Steinbeck's Ma Joad.

‘The Grapes of Wrath'

Gainesville Theater Alliance production

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14-18 and 21-25; 2:30 p.m, Feb. 19; school matinee, 10 a.m. Feb. 16; special preview performance Feb. 13.

Tickets: $16-18 adults, $14-16 seniors, $10-12 students, $8 for preview performance

More info: 678-717-3624

In an era of economic troubles, homelessness and unemployment, the John Steinbeck classic "The Grapes of Wrath" is as timely as ever.

The Gainesville Theatre Alliance will present the story of the Joad family and their search for security and identity during the Great Depression beginning Feb. 14 at Brenau University's Hosch Theatre, 429 Academy St., Gainesville.

The Gainesville Theatre Alliance is a nationally acclaimed collaboration between Gainesville State College, Brenau University, theatre professionals and the northeast Georgia community.

Georgia Ensemble Theatre's Artistic Director Bob Farley is guest director of "The Grapes of Wrath."

His 40-year theatrical career has taken him from Alaska to New York. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Pasadena Playhouse.

Farley has a blended cast of 32 actors and musicians in the GTA production. The role of Grandma Joad is played by professional Jane Bass, who appears often at Atlanta's Shakespeare Tavern. GTA Artistic Director Jim Hammond will appear as preacher Jim Casey, and GTA's newest faculty member and Georgia native Elisa Carlson plays Ma Joad.

"For me, it's really a story about Ma Joad," Farley said. "Because of the iconic photos of Henry Fonda, Tom Joad is often thought of as the hero, but he's a convicted murderer just out on parole — I don't want that kind of person to be hero. Ma Joad is the one who responds to all the hurdles the family must confront, and who holds the family together."

Two other key players are John Grimm and Beverly Smith, both award-winning musicians whose fiddle and guitar, the music underscoring and exposing the hearts of the characters written in playwright Frank Galati's compact script. Carlson says their playing lifts various scenes to feel like an Oscar-winning moments.

To make the play more relevant to patrons while creating connections in the community, GTA has invited 10 local relief organizations to join a Community Resource Fair in the lobby each night of the production. Each group works to aid the poor and homeless. Participating agencies include Good News at Noon, the Good News Clinic, My Sister's Place, Gateway Domestic Violence Center, Joe's Place, the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Gainesville Action Ministries, Feed the Need, Meals-on-Wheels and the Salvation Army.

In addition, GTA's merchandise table will be selling 100 "empty bowls," hand-made soup bowls created and donated by artists from Gainesville State College. Bowls will be sold for $25, with funds donated to the relief agencies.

A free, catered reception will follow Tuesday's opening performance. The play runs through Feb. 21. Tickets are $16-18 for adults, $14-16 for seniors and $10-12 for students. And $8 discount preview performance is set for Monday, Feb. 13.

Patrons can select their seats online or purchase tickets through the GTA Box Office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at 678-717-3624.