The Land Itself
25th Steinbeck Festival celebrates the places Steinbeck made famous.
Thursday, August 4, 2005
It’s been 60 years since John Steinbeck published his classic novel Cannery Row and 25 years since the first Steinbeck Festival in Salinas. To celebrate, this year’s festival—themed “Folk, Film and Fish”—is a silver anniversary jubilee featuring four days of speakers, tours, theater, music and special events.
Many of the events, which run August 4-7, are not restricted to the museum. Instead, festival organizers want to get attendees out into Steinbeck country to experience the land and places that inspired the great man himself.
Head down to Cannery Row for delicacies at the Culinary Center of Monterey, stroll to Ed Ricketts’ Lab for wine and sardines, and down beer milkshakes and watch bellydancing at Kalisa’s La Ida Café (don’t forget the Pepto). Hear new stories about Ed Ricketts, his scientific research and his many friends on the Row from historians Michael Hemp and Neal Hotelling while strolling from his lab to the Hopkins Marine Station. Hear old-timer Joe Bragdon give a slide presentation about his days as a cannery worker on the Row.
Explore Steinbeck Country through bus tours led by Steinbeck historian Carol Robles. Drive lovely River Road, the road taken by Elisa and Henry Allen (“The Chryanthemums”) on their way to Salinas. See the Salinas Valley as it was—visit Soledad and San Antonio Missions (close to Jolon, long considered the valley setting for To a God Unknown) or the ranch in Salinas purported to be the setting for The Red Pony. Along the way, taste Monterey County wine at Paraiso Vineyards.
Travel to Stanford University with Steinbeck scholar Susan
Shillinglaw for a VIP tour of the Steinbeck archive in Special
Collections. See memorabilia, rare letters and even the
original manuscript of Cannery Row. Or join Steinbeck Center
docents for a stroll around Steinbeck’s Salinas. See Steinbeck
family furnishings at the Steinbeck House, hear stories of
friends and the literary history of Main Street.
In addition, there are the world-class literary lectures that have become synonymous with the festival. This year’s bumper crop include such titles as “El Steinbeck Simpático: Art, Character, and Language,” “Just Folks: John Steinbeck and the American Quest for Anonymity,” “Steinbeck and Fly Fishing,” “Steinbeck Returns to Dixie,” and my personal favorite, “John Steinbeck and Bugs Bunny: Of Mice, Men, and Wabbits.”
What does Steinbeck have to do with Bugs Bunny? The title for John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was derived from the Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse,” as suggested by his wife Carol. What is less known is that the relationship between George and Lenny fascinated animator and writer Tex Avery, who used a variation on the theme for six cartoons, first at Warner Bros. and then at MGM. Hmmm.
Another standout lecture is “Notes from an Ungrateful Child.” Thomas Steinbeck will share anecdotes and memories from growing up as the son of John Steinbeck. The younger Steinbeck will also be available to sign first edition copies of his bestselling book of short stories Down to a Soundless Sea.
In addition, there will be screenings of East of Eden (1954), Travels with Charley, The Pearl (2005) and even a rare screening of The Forgotten Village, a stirring documentary of life in rural Mexico in 1940 that ideologicallypitted Steinbeck and Ricketts against each other.
But perhaps the most exciting performance of the festival is the Western Stage’s revamped adaptation of Cannery Row, which opens in conjunction with the festival. This revival of J.R. Hall’s world premiere production boasts direction by Richard Kuhlman and features Actors Equity Association (AEA) Guest Artist Kent Burnham in the role of Doc.
THE STEINBECK FESTIVAL RUNS AUGUST 4-7. A FESTIVAL PASSPORT COSTS $65 AND THERE ARE DISCOUNTS FOR MEMBERS. INDIVIDUAL EVENT TICKETS START AT $17 and include MUSEUM ADMISSION. FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL 775-4721 OR VISITWWW.STEINBECK.ORG.