Monday, March 14, 2011

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) SPECIAL EDITION: Ma Joad

Ma Joad (Lena Chilingerian) and Tom Joad (Dustin Fontaine)
Credit: Jason Flamos
Ma Joad (The Grapes of Wrath) This one is a special edition for this series. Ma Joad, from The Grapes of Wrath, was not on my list originally simply because I did not know who she was until now because, believe it or not, I never read the book. This is the perfect time to write about her.

This past Thursday night my friend Kelly and I kicked off our spring break by seeing the Peak Performance of The Grapes of Wrath, based on John Steinbeck's classic novel and written by Frank Galati, performed at MSU, which ran March 9-12 at Alexander Kasser Theater. You may recall me discussing this show back in February in my interview with Corinne Chandler. It was a very phenomenal and epic show that was very well done with its imagery and made you feel and think with its intensity. One character that really stood out to me was Ma Joad, played by senior BFA Acting major Lena Chilingerian (

The one thing that comes to mind when I think about Chilingerian's performance as Ma is that she was pretty badass. Like, she did not take crap from anybody. She has this stern and powerful aura about her while also maintaining warmth and love for her family. With her family she has a strictness as well while also providing hugs when they are most needed. She is not one of those frail wife and mothers, but rather one who takes control of any issue. Nobody stands in her way or questions her authority or her decisions once they are made. When she makes a decision, there is no turning back or rethinking. She moves forward. Plenty of obstacles get in the way of Ma and her family as they travel from Oklahoma to California, but Ma never shows any weakness. She does show emotion, but she is able to pick herself right back up to be strong for the rest of her family and very rarely displays any worry. When she does, it does not last long, for underneath it all she has an understanding nobody else could grasp, and it is very rare that she sheds a tear. She is always there to protect her family from any harm and acts as this knot so the family sticks together. They always listen to her, for she is the matriarch of the family and quite possibly the most powerful character in the play, for she rules with an iron fist.

Ma Joad is the kind of mother anyone would want. This is especially true when her daughter, Rose of Sharon, played by senior BFA Acting major Elizabeth Mackintosh, goes into labor or is criticized by a woman for being a sinner, both times comforted by Ma in a warm embrace. She is not a very laid back person, but yet she has this calmness about her. She takes care of everybody and does not turn away anybody who needs her care.

Lena Chilingerian was an amazing actress in this play! She was very convincing and strong, for you could tell that she had passion for the role, and also handles the southern accent very well. She did the same thing for her role as Nelly Windrod in The Rimers of Eldtrich. Much luck to her in her future endeavors! :)

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