In October of 2007, we launched our third New Works/New Communities venture with the first of several week-long workshops. Through an extended, community-based process, playwright Octavio Solis adapted The Pastures of Heaven, John Steinbeck's novel of interconnected short stories set in Corral de Tierra, a small farming community in California's Salinas Valley. This project partnered Cal Shakes with Solis and Word for Word Performing Arts Company to adapt the 1932 novel for a 2010 production on our Main Stage, the perfect setting for stories rooted in the rolling hills and farmlands of central California's Salinas Valley.
Watch a Behind the Scenes video about
John Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven
Watch excerpts from The Steinbeck Project workshop.
Watch a video about our March 2007 trip to Salinas to research The Pastures of Heaven.
Meet the Muralists, June 26, 2010
John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven, June 2–27, 2010
The Creation of Las Pasturas del Cielo, 2010
Cal Shakes and Word for Word Salinas Weekend, 2010
Workshop 4, June 2009
Workshop 3, December 2008
Community Conversations, December 2008
Workshop 2, March 2008
Research Trip, March 2008
Workshop 1, October 2007
Meet the Muralists, June 26, 2010: Presentation by members of Hijos del Sol at the Bruns Amphitheater, followed by Q&A session.
The Creation of Las Pasturas del Cielo, January–June 2010: Mural planned and created at Alisal Center for the Fine Arts by Jose Ortiz and his group of illustrators, known collectively as Hijos del Sol. The mural, based on the stories of Steinbeck’s original book, was installed at the Bruns Amphitheater in time for the opening of John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven.
Cal Shakes and Word for Word Salinas Weekend, April 30 & May 1, 2009: The events of this weekend included a Word for Word Workshop and Teacher’s Guide presentation at Hartnell College; a Scenic Design presentation and career talk with scenic designer Emily Greene at Alisal Center for the Fine Arts; a Window on the Work event at National Steinbeck Center with Jonathan Moscone, Octavio Solis, JoAnne Winter, Trish Tillman, Stephanie Hunt, and Amy Kossow; and a Pastures mural open house with video showing, mural discussion, and Q&A at Alisal Center for the Fine Arts.
Workshop 4, June 2009: Our fourth development workshop took place June 23-26 at the Ashby Stage (Berkeley, CA) with actors Nancy Carlin, James Carpenter, Amy Kossow, Dan Hiatt, Stephanie Hunt, Avery Monsen, Alex Morf (as Turalecito), Michael Torres, and Cat Walleck (as Miss Morgan) getting three newly adapted Pastures stories-those of Miss Morgan, Tularecito, and the Lopez sisters-on their feet. Playwright Octavio Solis and director Jonathan Moscone were on hand to guide the process, and the Lopez Sisters story was brought to musical life by Arwen Lawrence de Castellanos and Jorge Liceaga of Cascada de Flores, Word for Word Co-Artistic Director JoAnne Winter, and even playwright Solis in a cameo. The workshop ended in a staged reading open to the public, attended by approximately 60 people.
Workshop 3, December 2008: As 2008 drew to a close, actors from Cal Shakes and Word for Word gathered in our West Berkeley rehearsal hall to put the play-in-progress up on its feet. Under Jon Moscone's direction, a combined company including Ron Campbell, Catherine Castellanos, Julie Eccles, Susan Harloe, Joan Mankin, Sarah Nealis, and JoAnne Winter worked fast and furiously to stage the first 34 pages of the text over five days’ time. On the final day, an invited audience of Cal Shakes staff and project supporters got their first look at Pastures of Heaven by Octavio Solis.
Community Conversations, December 2008: On December 9, Jonathan Moscone, Associate Artistic Director Jessica Richards, and Publications Manager Stefanie Kalem went to Salinas with Word for Word co-Artistic Directors Susan Harloe and JoAnne Winter for a series of Community Conversations. These informal talks were an opportunity for Cal Shakes and Word for Word to hear stories about Salinas, John Steinbeck, and The Pastures of Heaven from local community members, to begin a dialogue about our project, and to identify future collaborators. We met with students and faculty members at Hartnell College (www.hartnell.edu); young artists and their teacher Jose Ortiz, a renowned muralist, at the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts; and agricultural business leaders and local historians at the National Steinbeck Center. At all three well-attended stops, the conversations were free and open to the public, and at all three we heard remarkable stories about life in Salinas.
Workshop 2, March 2008: We held our second workshop for the Steinbeck Project in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall in March of 2008, to explore the story of the charming but filthy Whitmanesque slacker Junius Maltby, his son Robbie, and their effects on the community. Solis, Moscone, and Cal Shakes and Word for Word company members spent three days using improvisation, performance, research, and conversation to plumb the depths of Steinbeck’s delicate narrative. Workshop participants included Cal Shakes Associate Artists Ron Campbell, Catherine Castellanos, and Domenique Lozano, along with Word for Word charter company members Susan Harloe, JoAnne Winter, Jeri Lynn Cohen, Stephanie Hunt, Amy Kossow, Nancy Shelby, and Patricia Silver.
Research Trip, March 2008: In March 2008, Harloe, Moscone, Solis, Winter, and other project artists and company staff headed to Salinas for two days of field research. The group visited agricultural education center The Farm where they tried their hands at working the land, and learned about the history of local agriculture and agribusiness. Afterward, they interviewed seniors at the Firehouse Recreation Center, and explored future community events with Steve Hoffman, CEO of The National Steinbeck Center. They also began exploring the landscape itself, with multiple trips to Corral de Tierra (http://www.corraldetierra.com/), the breathtakingly beautiful real-life setting of Pastures of Heaven.
Workshop 1, October 2007: In our first Steinbeck Project workshop, Octavio Solis, Jonathan Moscone, and ten actors from both Cal Shakes and Word for Word immersed themselves over five days in the world of the book, focusing on one particular story and its characters, including Turalecito (little frog), a found child named for his odd appearance. The artists drew from both Word for Word's unique practice of staging literary works, and the collaborative process used by the Royal Shakespeare Company to develop Charles Dickens' The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby for their stage. They improvised scenes, explored different choices in performing brief sequences, and researched farming, historical events, and the flora, fauna, and topography of the Salinas Valley. Workshop participants included Cal Shakes actors Ron Campbell, Nancy Carlin, Catherine Castellanos, Dan Hiatt, and Joan Mankin, along with Word for Word artists and co-artistic directors Susan Harloe and JoAnne Winter.
Jonathan Moscone conceived of adapting a novel for our stage after directing The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby for Cal Shakes in 2005, based on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s ensemble-driven adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic. Under his leadership as Artistic Director, Cal Shakes has increasingly overcome barriers between the classics and modern-day audiences, forging a dynamic dialogue around what a classic means to each of us, here and now. His establishment of NW/NC six years ago has significantly expanded our capacity to make these works matter.
Word for Word Performing Arts Company (a program of Z Space) joins California Shakespeare Theater as a creative partner in this project with playwright Octavio Solis. Word for Word has previously staged works of John Steinbeck (Chapter 5 of The Pastures of Heaven, Cannery Row), and also worked with Octavio Solis as a director. Though vastly different in size and formal approach, both Cal Shakes and Word for Word share a belief in the enduring power of the written word, and a commitment to creating vibrant theatrical works that are inventive and immediate. Word for Word is noted for its theatrical originality, bringing literature to life—literally word for word—through the imaginative power of its ensemble of artists.
Entering into The Pastures of Heaven by Jonathan Moscone
Coming Soon: Your Participation by Stefanie Kalem
It's in the language of the moment; no more, no less.by Jessica Richards
Photos from the Steinbeck Project workshop-in-progress by Jay Yamada
How 12 pages of text can take four hours.. by Jessica Richards
Hard fun, or, the multifarious voice of a single character's consciousness by Octavio Solis
Vicodin, tobacco smoke, and John Steinbeck. by Octavio Solis
Music to write corridos by...by Stefanie Kalem and Octavio Solis
Hello Fellow Travelers by Amy Kossow
Original corridas, photos from Steinbeck Project road trips and workshop, and much more to come... by Stefanie Kalem
New Play? No Problem! by Stefanie Kalem
Road Trip! by Stefanie Kalem
Turalecito in the Flesh? by Amy Kossow
Steinbeck Project Blog, take one by Amy Kossow
On Collaboration, Incorporation, and Change by Stefanie Kalem
John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven has been selected as a National Endowment for the Arts Distinguished New American Play as part of the NEA New Play Development Program, hosted by Arena Stage.
The Steinbeck Project is underwritten by numerous individual donors and generous support from: