The Norman Transcript

State/Region

September 28, 2013

Okla. artists to retrace ‘Grapes of Wrath’ journey

OKLAHOMA CITY — A trio of artists soon will travel from Oklahoma to California, retracing the steps the Joad family from “The Grapes of Wrath” took as part of the upcoming 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s novel-turned-film.

The artists — along with representative from the National Steinbeck Center — will travel along Route 66 gathering oral histories of people and asking what helps them get through hard times. The group will start in Oklahoma on Oct. 4 and make stops in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. The trip will conclude in California 10 days later.

“John Steinbeck was very interested in going out and listening to the people and the stories of the people. He got his greatest inspiration for his best work really when he did that,” said Colleen Baily, executive director of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Calif.

The three artists — playwright Octavio Solis, writer Patricia Wakida and filmmaker P.J. Palmer— will then use the information and stories to create new work.

The artists will be documenting the journey through social media, blogging and other channels and it will be shared during the 75th anniversary celebration of “The Grapes of Wrath” next year.

“There are so many similarities to what people were facing back in the ‘30s and what they’re facing today,” Bailey said, noting environmental challenges and the economy.

“We’ve just been through the Great Recession and I’m not sure we’re really all the way through it, so really to hear what people have suffered and what inspires them to keep them moving forward in these times of challenges.”

The group is looking for stories from a diverse cross section of people — young and old, rich and poor. In Oklahoma, stories from Native America will be important, she said.

Different organizations and groups will be holding events in conjunction with the journey. A vintage car show will take place on Oct. 5 in Oklahoma City, while live music will be a part of the journey when the group stops in Albuquerque, N.M. on Oct. 9.

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