Families are important, both in art and real life.
“Both the novel and play of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ are so much about families that it’s cool for us to have so many families in the play,” said Linden Little, director of the upcoming Pittsburg Community Theatre production.
The play will be presented at 7:30 p.m. April 4 and 5 and 2 p.m. April 6 in Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium. A special performance will also be held for area high schools on April 3.
It follows the experiences of the Joad family as they leave Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl drought and hit the road for California. Along the way they encounter many more families who are also heading west. However, California has been flooded with men seeking employment and prospects there are dim for the Joads.
Little knows all about PCT families.
“I’ve probably been a member of the PCT family the longest,” said his mother, Mimi Little, who usually runs props for shows. “My son has been in PCT since he was 7.”
She added that she believes more families have been turning out to be in shows together, and the current cast certainly supports Mrs. Little’s observation.
For example, both Ciara Sanchez and her father, Tony Sanchez, are in “The Grapes of Wrath.”
“But in the play we are not related at all,” he said.  “I play Floyd Knowles, kind of a mean man, and I’m a square dancer. I’m all over the place.”
“I play Aggie Wainwright, I’m a gas girl, fourth narrator and I marry Al Joad at the end of the play,” Ciara Sanchez said.
Deanna Grotheer is stage manager and her daughter, Morgan, is Al Joad’s girl and also square dances.
“Morgan gets her first kiss on stage,” Grotheer said.
When pressed to comment on that, Morgan Grotheer answered, “Sure, it’s kind of cool.”
Maddy Emerson is a square dancer, and cousin Libby Vogel is part of the play ensemble.
“I’m also a square dancer, I’m part of Hooverville and I’m in a riot,” she said.
Jason Huffman is set and sound designer, while his son, Xavier, plays Winfield Joad, 10, the youngest child of the Joad family.
“I have to do square dancing, which I don’t like,” the youngster said.
John Mazurek and his wife Dianne are both in the play.
“I get to play Pa Joad, the patriarch,” Mazurek said.
Troy Graham gets to play a man going back, and his wife, Laurie, is third narrator. Their daughter, Lily Graham, gets to square dance with Xavier, alias Winfield Joad.
“Laurie plays my wife,” Sanchez said. “I get to borrow her from Troy.”
“And Lily has played my child in two shows,” his daughter added.
Andra Stefanoni and her son Jack are in the play, though her other son, Dominic, is sitting this one out.
“I play a couple of women, a gas girl and I sell the Hudson Super 6 jalopy to the Joads,” Stefanoni said.
One of her characters also gets to deliver the baby of Rose of Sharon Joad Rivers. Sadly, the baby is stillborn.
Her son plays a young boy that the Joad family finds with his starving father inside an old barn.
“I’m thinking that the word ‘family’ is used a lot, and we feel like were all family here,” Stefanoni said. “We count on each other.”
Sanchez agrees with that.
“When you do a production, it’s like a family reunion,” he said.
Furthermore, doing a show together can strengthen families off-stage.
“I don’t want to downplay the importance of sports, but this is something you can do with your kids,” said Stefanoni, who started off in PCT children’s theater workshops back in the 1970s. “You can’t really be on a sports team with your child.”
Being on stage can offer opportunities hard for a child to find in real life.
“Last year Morgan got to fly,” Grotheer said. “She was the head flying monkey in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ How else could she get that opportunity?”
Rehearsals are held during the week, but Huffman said every effort is made to help youngsters get through the process with a minimum of disruption in their other activities.
“People will help kids with their homework between scenes,” Huffman said. “They know the kids have to go to school the next day.”
Meanwhile, other family members take care of things at home.
“We really need to give credit to the people at home,” Stefanoni said. “They really make it possible for us to do this.”
Reserved tickets for “The Grapes of Wrath” are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and $8 for general admission balcony seating. They may be purchased online at www.memorialauditorium.org or by calling 620-231-7827.