Ohio State University

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Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University

Project Summary

The Builders Association’s multimedia theater production, HOUSE / DIVIDED, realized during a series of Creative Campus residencies at OSU, is an insightful examination of the impact of the current mortgage crisis juxtaposed with passages drawn from Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath.  Onstage, the Builders interweave the Joads’s struggles as they make their way west with images and scenes from our contemporary foreclosure crisis unfolding in our media-saturated era. The scenes depicting today’s mortgage meltdown focus on houses themselves, which serve as a lens to view their various inhabitants, evictees, and squatters.  The Builders also explore the global financial webs surrounding American houses, networks that provided easy credit, created debt, speculated on and then sold that debt—triggering a runaway downward spiral of national economic and social collapse.

Ohio and Columbus have been hard-hit by the economic downturn fueled by unethical mortgage practices, and examining local manifestations as a microcosm of these national trends greatly informed the Builders’ classroom interactions with our diverse array of academic partners.  Via these classroom connections, the Builders met a local developer involved in revitalizing a neighborhood adjacent to OSU that has many abandoned properties.  This resulted in the Builders getting access to arson houses, removing large slices from them to re-create this house onstage for their set. This pivotal design decision also had impact on the Builders narrative, with scenes referencing this Columbus neighborhood amplified by the inclusion of video interviews with the local developer and an OSU student they met who was coping with foreclosure.  These local elements rooted HOUSE / DIVIDED in the life of this community and lent the production a poignancy and power that was felt by our audiences during its premiere here October 6-8, 2011, before audiences including our academic and community partners, incoming freshmen, and university leaders.

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