octavio solis

The Steinbeck Project

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.
Photo: Cal Shakes and Word for Word company members work the land at The Farm in Salinas; photo by Derek Smith.

Multimedia

Video:

Steinbeck Project
Watch a Behind the Scenes video about
John Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven

Steinbeck Project
Watch excerpts from The Steinbeck Project workshop.

Steinbeck Project
Watch a video about our March 2007 trip to Salinas to research The Pastures of Heaven.
Photos:

Steinbeck Project Photos
Detail from a 40-foot mural depicting stories from Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven.

Steinbeck Project Photos
At the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts, Colleen Bailey and Steve Hoffman of the National Steinbeck Center (left) and Jonathan Moscone (right) listen to Alisal’s Orlando Castro during our December 2008 series of Community Conversations; photo by Jessica Richards.

Steinbeck Project Photos
Carol Robles, Bill Ramsey, and Joanne Taylor Johnson take part in the panel at our December 2008 Community Conversation at the National Steinbeck Center; photo by Jessica Richards.
Steinbeck Project Photos
One of Jose Ortiz’s students shows off his work at the December 2008 Community Conversation at the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts; photo by Jessica Richards.

Steinbeck Project Photos
One of the land formations that appear in the novel The Pastures of Heaven, as seen on the March 2008 research trip for The Steinbeck Project; photo by Derek Smith.

Steinbeck Project Photos
Jonathan Moscone, Susan Harloe, Octavio Solis, JoAnne Winter, Ammy Kossow, and Patricia Silver on The Farm on the March 2008 research trip for Pastures of Heaven; photo by Derek Smith.
Steinbeck Project Photos
Labels representing produce brands from all over the Salinas area, as painted by John Cerny; photo by Derek Smith.
Steinbeck Project Photos
Octavio Solis sits at John Steinbeck’s desk in the National Steinbeck Center during the March 2008 research trip; photo by Jessica Richards.

Cal Shakes and Word for Word company members and staffers farming at the Farm in Salinas, CA, on the March 2008 research trip; photo by Derek Smith.
Steinbeck Project Photos
Cal Shakes Associate Artist Hiatt, Artistic Director Jon Moscone, playwright Octavio Solis, and members of the Word for Word Performing Arts Company during our first workshop (October 2007); photo by Ilsa Brink.

Steinbeck Project Photos
Susan Harloe, Jeri Lynn Cohen, and Amy Kossow of Word for Word workshop the Junius Maltby story from The Pastures of Heaven in March 2008.

Patricia Silver, Nancy Shelby, and JoAnne Winter of Word for Word huddle up with Cal Shakes Associate Artist Ron Campbell to portray gossiping townsfolk during the second Pastures of Heaven workshop in March 2008; photo by Jay Yamada.
Steinbeck Project Photos
Cal Shakes and Word for Word company members perform the story of Edward “Shark” Wicks during the second Pastures of Heaven workshop in March 2008; photo by Jay Yamada.


Cal Shakes Associate Artistic Director Jessica Richards and Pastures playwright Octavio Solis during the second Steinbeck Project workshop in March 2008; photo by Jay Yamada.
 



Project History
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.

John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven, June 2–27, 2010: Octavio Solis’ play, directed by Jonathan Moscone, makes its world premiere on the Bruns Amphitheater stage. 

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.

Who's Who

Octavio Solis
Jonathan Moscone
Word for Word Performing Arts Company
The National Steinbeck Center
Alisal Center for the Fine Arts

Octavio Solis is a San Francisco-based playwright and director with a poetic, sensual, and visceral writing style. He came to California years ago from his native Texas, where other immigrants venture across borders in pursuit of a new life. Their stories inhabit much of his work. Mr. Solis is one of the rare playwrights who thrives on listening, and he has extensive experience in community-based development of new work. His interest in investigating, knowing and learning from a community makes his participation in this project essential to our NW/NC process.

His plays include Don Quixote, Ghosts of the River, Lydia, June in a Box, Man of the Flesh, Prospect, El Paso Blue, Santos & Santos, La Posada Mágica, El Otro, Dreamlandia, The 7 Visions of Encarnacion, Bethlehem, The Ballad of Pancho and Lucy, Gibraltar, Lethe, and Marfa Lights. They have been mounted at a variety of theaters including Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Dallas Theater Center, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Mark Taper Forum, Company , Campo Santo/Intersection for the Arts, Yale Repertory Theatre, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, South Coast Repertory Theatre, San Diego Repertory Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Latino Chicago Theatre Company, La Compania de Albuquerque, Teatro Vista in Chicago, El Teatro Campesino, Undermain Theatre in Dallas, Thick Description, Imua Theatre Company in New York, and Cornerstone Theatre. He has collaborated on several pieces such as Burning Dreams, co-written with Julie Hebert and Gina Leishman; Shiner, written with Erik Ehn, and Great Highway, written with Wendy Weiner.

Mr. Solis has received numerous awards for his work including an NEA 1995-97 Playwriting Fellowship, the Roger L. Stevens award from the Kennedy Center, the Will Glickman Playwright Award, a production grant from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, the 1998 TCG/NEA Theatre Artists in Residence Grant, the 1998 McKnight Fellowship grant from the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, and the National Latino Playwriting Award for 2003. He is the recipient of the 2000-2001 National Theatre Artists Residency Grant from TCG and the Pew Charitable Trust for Gibraltar at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. His anthology, Plays by Octavio Solis was published by Broadway Play Publishing in 2008 and in 2004 he wrote and directed the independent feature film Prospect, based on his award-winning play of the same name. Mr. Solis is a Cal Shakes Associate Artist, member of the Dramatists Guild, and New Dramatists alum.

Read a Los Angeles Times profile of Octavio.

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.

In his tenth season at Cal Shakes, Jonathan has directed the critically acclaimed An Ideal Husband, Man and Superman and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, in addition to Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Seagull, and The Importance of Being Earnest, and more. He also directed the development and world premiere of our first NW/NC project, Hamlet: Blood in the Brain by Naomi Iizuka, (co-produced with Intersection for the Arts + Campo Santo, 2006). His work at Cal Shakes has earned him Bay Area Critics Circle and Dean Goodman Choice Awards for Best Direction and Production, and his productions of An Ideal Husband, Man and Superman, Nicholas Nickleby, Twelfth Night, and The Seagull were all named among the ten best productions by The San Francisco Chronicle and other area newspapers. His regional credits include A Picasso at San Jose Rep, Eurydice at Milwaukee Rep, the world premiere of Richard Nelson’s How Shakespeare Won the West for Huntington Theatre, Ibsen’s Ghosts and Wilder’s Our Town for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the world premiere of Des Moines by novelist Denis Johnson for Intersection for the Arts; and productions at Intiman Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theater, Dallas Theatre Center, Goodspeed Musicals, Triangle Opera, Portland Stage Company, and Magic Theatre.

He is the recipient of a Stanford Graduate School of Business Center for Social Innovation Fellowship and is an adjunct faculty member with A.C.T.’s M.F.A. program. He has also served as a grant review panelist for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Theater Communications Group, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Upcoming projects include a commission by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle”to create a piece in collaboration with Berkeley Repertory’s Tony Taccone. Mr. Moscone earned his M.F.A. in Directing from the Yale School of Drama and was Associate Artistic Director of Dallas Theater Center for seven years. He is the recipient of a Princess Grace Award for Directing, a Drama League Directors Project Fellowship, and a Stanford Graduate School of Business Center for Social Innovation Fellowship.

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.

Founded in 1993, Word for Word is a professional theater company staging verbatim performances of short stories. Their mission is to tell great stories with elegant theatricality, staging performances of classic and contemporary fiction from a diversity of the world’s great writers. Their goals are to excite people about the written word, to inspire them to read more, and to create new audiences for the theatre. Word for Word believes in the power of the short story to provide solace, compassion, and insight into our daily lives. Led by founding Artistic Directors Susan Harloe and JoAnne Winter, additional W4W ensemble members include Jeri Lynn Cohen, Stephanie Hunt, Nancy Shelby, Sheila Balter, Amy Kossow, and Patricia Silver. Productions include More Stories by Tobias Wolff (2008, Magic Theatre), Sonny's Blues (2008, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre), Angel Face (2007, Project Artaud Theater), Strangers We Know (2007, Magic Theatre), 4 Adverbs (2006, Project Artaud Theater), Epiphanies (2005, Magic Theatre), Immortal Heart (2004, Magic Theatre), Stories by Tobias Wolff (2002, Magic Theatre), and Oil! (2001, Magic Theatre).

Since 1998, Word for Word has consistently received Bay Area Critics Circle Awards for Best Ensemble, and awards for Best Direction and Best Production. More Stories by Tobias Wolff  was named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of 2008’s Ten Top San Francisco Bay Area Theater Productions, and the company was named one of 2008’s Ten Top Theater Experiences.  W4W employs 100+ Bay Area theater professionals each year, and annually attracts more than 20,000 people to performances in a number of Bay Area theater venues.

The National Steinbeck Center’s mission is to tell the story of John Steinbeck's rich legacy and to present, create and explore stories of the human condition. The Center is located in John Steinbeck's hometown of Salinas, a scenic 17-mile drive from Monterey, California in the heart of Steinbeck Country. The Museum offers three distinct visitor experiences in literature and history, agriculture and art, as well special events and educational programs.

Alisal Center for the Fine Arts encourages and assists Salinas area residents to be involved with art as participant or viewer through arts workshops, performances, exhibits and trips. ACFA invites anyone to join a dance, visual arts or music workshop. They work mainly with creative young artists in east Salinas. Muralist José Ortiz is Alisal's Visual Art Director, who mentors young painters–most of whom are children of immigrant farm workers–through year-round after-school arts programs.


Upcoming Events:


January 2011: Pastures—and Hijos del Sol’s mural, Las Pasturas del Cielo—travel to D.C., where members of the original cast will present the play as part of the NewPlay Festival of Round 1 of the NEA New Play Development Program, presented by Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.

 










Awards/Funding

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:

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