The Human Race Ends Run of GEM OF THE OCEAN
August Wilson's fame centers around his "Pittsburgh Cycle," ten plays about the neighborhood where he grew up, each set in a different decade of the 1900s. Gem covers the first decade, set in The Hill District in 1904, although it was the next to last of the series written. The play revolves around Aunt Ester, the 285-year old matriarch who was brought to America on the slave ship in the title and who serves as the community's advisor and moral guide.
The production by The Human Race closes tonight, April 15. Dayton's own professional theatre company's production is directed by Mark Clayton Southers, Artistic Director of the theatre at the August Wilson center in Pittsburgh. Southers grew up in and still lives in The Hill, and recognizes many of the characters from real life. "I think there are Aunt Esters in every family," says Southers. "They pass down recipes and oral history. African-American history relies heavily on the oral tradition. White audience members get to be a fly on the wall, hearing stories they typically don't hear."
Southers has gathered a cast of local favorites and talented guest artists for Gem of the Ocean. Dwandra Nickole, who had a long New York career before joining the faculty at Ball State University, plays Aunt Ester. Jonathan Berry (Citizen Barlow) and Kevin Brown (Eli) have extensive experience in Pittsburgh productions of Wilson's works.
Two Human Race Resident Artists are featured – Alan Bomar Jones as Solly Two Kings and Scott Stoney as a Rutherford Selig. Other locals in the cast are Dayton native Bryant Bentley (Caesar Wilks) and Marva M.B. Williams (Black Mary), who was in The Human Race in-school tour show, Change, last fall.
The set for Gem of the Ocean is designed by Dick Block, costumes by Colleen Alexis Metzger, lighting by Resident Artist John Rensel, and sound by Rich Dionne. Kay Carver is the Production Stage Manager.