August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean” Opens at Goodman

The Goodman Theatre kicks off the new year with a major revival of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean two decades after the play premiered on the same stage. Resident Director Chuck Smith directs a cast of seven featuring Sharif Atkins (Citizen Barlow), Sydney Charles (Black Mary), Lisa Gaye Dixon (Aunt Ester), Gary Houston (Rutherford Selig), Kelvin Roston, Jr. (Caesar), A.C. Smith (Eli) and James A. Williams (Solly Two Kings).

Originally directed by the late Marion McClinton at the Goodman in 2003, Gem of the Ocean is the play that chronically launches Wilson’s famed “American Century Cycle” which includes ten plays, each set in a different decade of the 20th century, that together chronicle one hundred years of the African American experience.

August Wilson Gem of the OceanGem of the Ocean tells the story of tensions in Pittsburgh. Tensions flare into riots across Pittsburgh’s Hill District as chaos threatens a city desperate for freedom. It is 1904, the dawn of the new century, yet slavery’s shadow looms large. There is solace to be found at the home of 285-year-old Ester Tyler, keeper and transmitter of African American history and cleanser of souls. When a suspicious traveler appears at her door in search of a new life, Aunt Ester guides him on a journey of spiritual awakening.

In conjunction with the production, audiences can support local African American artisans at “Hidden Gems: A Celebration of African American Artists & Art,” an on-site pop-up market featuring arts, crafts, and more, will culminate the last week of the play and be available prior to and post select shows.

Gem of the Ocean appears January 22 – February 27; opening night is January 31. Tickets ($25 – $80, subject to change) are now available at or by phone at 312.443.3800.


Touch Tour and Audio-Described Performance: Saturday, February 19, 12:30 pm Touch Tour; 2 pm performance – The action/text is audibly enhanced for patrons via headset. NOTE: Touch Tours for the 2021/2022 Season will not have access to the stage due to current health and safety protocols but will feature alternate pre-show sensory introductions.

ASL-Interpreted Performance: Friday, February 25 at 8:00 pm – A professional American Sign Language interpreter signs the action/text as played.

Open-Captioned Performance: Saturday, February 26 at 2 pm – An LED sign presents dialogue coordinated with the performance.

Visit for more information about Goodman Theatre’s accessibility efforts.

Health and Safety Note: Proof of full vaccination with an FDA or WHO-authorized vaccine is required for all guests over twelve and a recent negative test must be presented for children under twelve. Patrons must always wear face coverings while inside Goodman Theatre. Learn more

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