Gem of the Ocean
by August Wilson
directed by Kent Gash
October 14, 2017 - November 11, 2017


1904. Many former slaves and descendants venturing north find themselves at Aunt Ester’s door in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. A renowned cleanser of souls claiming to be 285 years old, Ester provides solace, advice and healing. Citizen Barlow, racked with guilt over letting another man take the rap for one of his crimes, desperately wants to be pure again. And Aunt Ester may be his only hope. From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Fences, comes a mystical story of freedom, justice and redemption. 

Previews: October 14–19, 2017
First Night: October 20, 2017
Regular Performances: October 21–November 11, 2017

Recommendation: Ages 12 and above. This production contains smoking, fog, strobe and haze effects​ and loud sound effects.

Running Time: Approximately ​​two hours and ​45 minutes, including one ​​15-minute intermission.

​Gem of the Ocean is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC.

August Wilson (Playwright, April 27, 1945-Oct. 2, 2005) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of the descendants of Africans in North America, decade-by-decade, over the course of the 20th century, forming the compilation entitled The American Century Cycle. His plays have been produced on Broadway, at regional theatres across the country and all over the world. In 2003, Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned, currently touring and featuring Eugene Lee reprising Wilson’s role. Wilson’s works garnered many awards including Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990); a Tony Award for Fences; Great Britain’s Olivier Award for Jitney; as well as seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and Jitney. Additionally, the cast recording of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom received a 1985 Grammy Award. In 1995, Wilson received an Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Piano Lesson. His early works include the one-act plays The Janitor, Recycle, The Coldest Day of the Year, Malcolm X, The Homecoming, and the musical satire, Black Bart and the Sacred Hills. He was the recipient of many fellowships and awards including the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships in Playwriting, the Whiting Writers Award, 2003 Heinz Award and a 1999 National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton. Wilson received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, as well as the only high school diploma ever issued by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He was an alumnus of New Dramatists, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a 1995 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and on Oct. 16, 2005, Broadway renamed the theatre located at 245 West 52nd Street as The August Wilson Theatre. Today, his plays continue to be produced and his place in the American Theatre continues to grow. New York Public Radio recorded all 10 plays in the The American Century Cycle at the Greene Space, casting many of the actors who worked on the original productions and PBS aired a documentary The Ground On Which I Stand, as part of the “American Masters” series. Born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Penn., Wilson lived in Seattle, Wash., at the time of his death. He was survived by his two daughters, Sakina Ansari and Azula Carmen Wilson, and his wife, costume designer Constanza Romero, who is the executor of his estate.

Learn more about the production, cast & creative team with a peek into the program. Read full artist bios, in-depth articles and more.

Shinelle Azoroh (Black Mary) is delighted to make her debut at South Coast Repertory in Gem of the Ocean. Her credits include Blues for an Alabama Sky (Lorraine Hansberry Theater), Seven Guitars (Marin Theatre Company) and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet (American Conservatory Theater). Her film and television credits include Only You, Betty and Coretta, “Code Black” and Nostalgia. She is an MFA graduate of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, Calif.

​​​​Preston Butler III (Citizen Barlow) is an actor, filmmaker and musician who has worked with an array of extraordinary artists including “Insecure” creator and star Issa Rae; award-winning Chinese director and playwright Stan Lai; and Def Poetry’s Dahlak Brathwaite. In 2016, Butler garnered international acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for his co-creation and performance in the eerily exciting “concert drama” Dead Awaken. Butler will tour France in 2018 with FORE!, a new play written by 2017 Relentless Award-winner Aleshea Harris. His credits include Hecuba (Agamemnon) at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood and Cotton Patch Gospel (John the Baptist) at American Coast Theater Company. He is a graduate of the MFA acting program at the California Institute of the Arts and the performance/directing program at Vanguard University of Southern California. Phil 4:13

Caldwell, L. Scott
L. Scott Caldwell (Aunt Ester) is a Chicago native who started her career as a company member of the famed Negro Ensemble Company and made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-nominated play Home. She starred as the first black millionaire, Madame CJ Walker, in The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove at the Goodman Theatre, winning the Ruby Dee Award. She won an Obie Award for her performance in Lee Blessing’s Going to St. Ives, a Helen Hayes Award for her critically acclaimed performance in Neil Simon’s Proposals and the Tony Award for August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. She has starred in world premieres of plays by Wole Soyinka, Athol Fugard and Leslie Lee. Her film credits include The Case for Christ; Concussion; The Perfect Guy; Gridiron Gang; The Fugitive; Waiting to Exhale; Mystery; Alaska; Dragonfly; Devil in the Blue Dress; The Net; and Dutch. Television viewers know her from her portrayal of Rose on ABC’s “Lost.” She was a series regular on the CBS dramedy “Queens Supreme” and the PBS series “Mercy Street.” She has had recurring roles on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” “Low Winter Sun,” “Southland,” “The Last Tycoon,” “Insecure” and, most recently, “How to Get Away with Murder.” She has guest-starred in more than 30 television series including “Brooklyn 99” as Andre Braugher’s mother.

Derricks, Cleavant
Cleavant Derricks (​​​Solly Two Kings) is making his SCR debut. He created the role of James Thunder Early for Dreamgirls, which garnered him Tony and Drama Desk awards for best featured actor as well as the Los Angeles Drama Circle Award for vocal arrangements. For his work in Bob Fosse’s Broadway production Big Deal, Derricks was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk awards for Best Actor. His other Broadway credits include the revival of Hair, Vinette Carroll’s Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, But Never Jam Today and Brooklyn the Musical. He received the NAACP Theatre Award for Best Male Performance for his portrayal of Horse in the Full Monty national tour. Derricks was awarded the Heroes and Legends Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre; served as composer, musical director and featured actor for the musical When Hell Freezes Over, I’ll Skate, which aired as a PBS special; and starred in Cy Coleman’s Like Jazz at the Mark Taper Forum. His film roles include Moscow on the Hudson, The Slugger’s Wife, Offbeat, Carnival of Souls, Bluffing It, Miami Magma, Basilisk and World Traveler. His appearances as a television series regular include “Sliders,” “Thea,” “Drexell’s Class,” “Good Sports” and “Woops!” Some of his television guest appearances include “Touched by an Angel,” “Charmed,” “The Practice,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Cold Case” and David E. Kelly’s “Wedding Bells.”

​​​Hal Landon Jr. (​​​Rutherford Selig) is an SCR Founding Artist who has appeared in All the Way, Going to a Place where you Already Are, Rest, The Fantasticks, The Trip to Bountiful, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Nothing Sacred, Man from Nebraska, Born Yesterday, A View from the Bridge, Habeas Corpus, Antigone, The Drawer Boy (Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award nomination), Major Barbara and Tartuffe. His other credits include Arcadia, Our Town, Sidney Bechet Killed a Man, BAFO, Six Degrees of Separation, An Ideal Husband, A Mess of Plays by Chris Durang, Faith Healer, Green Icebergs, The Miser, Our Country’s Good and Waiting for Godot. He created the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in SCR’s A Christmas Carol and has performed it in each of its 37 years. He appeared in Leander Stillwell (Mark Taper Forum), Henry V (The Old Globe) and as Polonius in Hamlet (Shakespeare Orange County). Among his television and film credits are “The Closer,” “My Name is Earl,” “CSI: NY,” “Mad Men,” The Artist, Trespass, Pacific Heights, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the Netflix film Pee Wee’s Big Holiday and the HBO film All the Way.

Orduña, Matt
​​​​​Matt Orduña (​​​Eli) is very excited to be working with South Coast Repertory. His thea-trical roles include Abioseh in Les Blancs at Rogue Machine Theatre; Bilal in Bars & Measures (Stage Raw nominee, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award nominee for lead performance in a play) at The Theatre @ Boston Court; Gabriel in Fences at International City Theatre (Ovation Award nominee for Featured Performance); Teresias in Oedipus El Rey and Albert/Kevin in Clybourne Park at San Diego Repertory Theatre; Duncan in Macbeth at A Noise Within; and Flip in Stick Fly at Mo’oelo Performing Arts Company. His film and television credits include I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (Sundance Grand Jury Award), Grace of Jake, Baby Steps, Better Half: The Story of Tony & Leo, “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “NCIS,” “Ironside,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “The Fosters,” “Switched at Birth,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Mob City,” “Family Tools” and “Legit.” He earned his MFA in 2001 from the University of Washington Professional Actor Training Program. He is very excited to be working with this wonderful cast and crew. Thank you to Tinia and Autumn for their love and support

​​​​​​Arnell Powell (​​​​Caesar) is making his SCR debut. He appeared off-Broadway in The Blacks (The Classical Theatre of Harlem) and Othello (Veteran’s Center for the Performing Arts) and in the national tour of Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk. Regionally, he has appeared in Pericles Redux (Kirk Douglas Theatre), Antony and Cleopatra (Guthrie Theater) and Black Sheep (Eugene O’Neill Theater Center/National Playwrights Conference). His film credits include Hidden Figures, The Conjuring and Soul Ties. On television, he has had recurring roles on “Greenleaf,” “The Mick,” “Switched at Birth,” “The Red Road” and “Drop Dead Diva” and guest-starring roles on “Lethal Weapon,” “Bosch,” “Castle,” “NCIS,” “The Shield” and “Cold Case.” He earned his MFA at the NYU Graduate Acting Program.
Creative Team
​Kent Gash (Director) is making his SCR directorial debut. In addition to directing the acclaimed world premiere of Robert O’Hara’s Barbecue (The Public Theater), his other New York productions include Broke-ology (The Juilliard School); Miss Evers’ Boys (Melting Pot Theatre, off-Broadway premiere); Call the Children Home (Primary Stages); Duke Ellington’s Beggars Holiday (York Theatre Company); and the off-Broadway revival of Home. His regional productions include The Mountaintop (Trinity Repertory Company); The Legend of Georgia McBride (Marin Theatre Company); Wig Out! (Studio Theatre, Washington, D.C.); The Comedy of Errors (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); and in 2018, The Wiz (Ford’s Theatre). Gash directed Harriet’s Return starring Debbie Allen (Geffen Playhouse-Kennedy Center co-production). Elsewhere, his credits include August Wilson’s Seven Guitars (Marin Theatre); Mahalia (Cleveland Play House); The Brothers Size (McCarter Theater IN-Festival); Wig Out! (Sundance Theatre Institute); Native Son (world premiere, adapted and directed for Intiman Theatre); and Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Arizona Theatre Company). For Theatre Virginia, Gash directed the first African-American production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. His other directing credits include August Wilson’s Radio Golf, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and King Hedley II; and Suzan Lori-Park’s Topdog/Underdog (Trinity Repertory Theatre, New Repertory Theatre; winner, Elliot Norton Award, Best Director, 2004-05). Gash is the former associate artistic director of both the Alliance Theatre and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and is founding director of the New Studio on Broadway, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.

​Edward E Haynes (Scenic Design) is excited to be working on Gem of the Ocean. His regional credits include School for Scandal, Having Our Say and Carpa Clash (Mark Taper Forum); Solomania and All Wear Bowlers (Kirk Douglas Theatre); Two Trains Running, Crowns, Fraternity and The Gospel at Colonus (Ebony Repertory Theatre); Native Son (Intiman Theatre); Emergency! (Geffen Playhouse); Voir Dire and From the Mississippi Delta (Trinity Repertory Company); Having Our Say and All Wear Bowlers (Berkeley Repertory Theatre); My Fair Lady (The Hollywood Bowl); God of Carnage, Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean and Sleuth (Alliance Theatre); Tunisia, Blues for an Alabama Sky and Aaronville Dawning (Alabama Shakespeare Festival); and many productions he can no longer remember. His television credits include MTV’s “Spring Break” (2011, 2012); “Hip Hop Harry” (Discovery Kids/TLC); and “Culture Clash” (Fox TV). Haynes is the proud father of twins, Denis and Wesly, and husband to director Elizabeth Bell-Haynes.

​Susan Tsu (Costume Design) is an award-winning costume designer whose designs have graced the stages of major League of Resident Theatre venues in the United States as well as international theatres the world over. Her production highlights include the hit musical Godspell, The Joy Luck Club, a first-time collaboration between Chinese and American companies touring the Pacific Rim, and The Balcony at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. She is the recipient of many awards including the 2016 Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement, the NY Drama Desk, NY Drama Critics, NY Young Film Critics, L.A. Distinguished Designer awards and a Kennedy Center Medal of Achievement. Her designs have been seen internationally in China, Russia, the Pacific Rim and the Czech Republic and have been in numerous exhibitions, books and publications. Tsu co-curated the national and student exhibitions for the 2007 Prague Quadrennial, and was artistic director for the USITT-USA-PQ 2011 exhibition. She was co-curator of the USA designers submitted to Costume at the Turn of the Century: 1990-2015 and is chief curator for a new exhibition featuring the work of emerging designers: Innovative Costume of the 21st Century: The Next Generation, premiering in Moscow in 2019. Her current design assignments include Shakespeare in Love at South Coast Repertory and The Book of Will at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Tsu headed the costume programs at Boston University and the University of Texas at Austin before joining the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University, her alma mater.

​Dawn Chiang (Lighting Design) started her lighting design career at South Coast Repertory, where she designed 10 productions including The Time of Your Life, which opened the Fourth Step Theatre (now known as the Segerstrom Stage). On Broadway, she designed the lighting for Zoot Suit, was co-designer for Tango Pasion and associate lighting designer for Show Boat, The Life and the original Broadway production of La Cage Aux Folles. Off-Broadway, she has designed for the Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club and co-designed the first two seasons of the Encores! concert musical series at City Center. Chiang was resident lighting designer for New York City Opera and has worked for the concert tours of Paul Anka, The Carpenters, Diana Ross and Loggins and Messina. She has designed the lighting at numerous other regional theatres including the Mark Taper Forum, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Guthrie Theater, Alliance Theatre and Arena Stage. She has earned two Drama-Logue Critics Awards, two Lighting Designer of the Year awards (Syracuse Area Live Theatre) and nominations for the San Francisco Drama Critics Award, Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Award and the Hewes Design Award from American Theatre Wing.

​Lindsay Jones (Original Music and Sound​ Design) returns to SCR where he previously designed Once, The Madwoman in the Volvo; One Man, Two Guvnors; Smokefall; and Vesuvius. He designed and composed for the Broadway productions of Bronx Bombers and A Time to Kill. His off-Broadway credits include Bella, Bootycandy (Playwrights Horizons), Mr. Joy (LCT3), Privacy, Dry Powder, Barbecue (The Public Theater), Top Secret (New York Theatre Workshop) and Discord (Primary Stages).His regional credits include the Guthrie Theater, Hartford Stage, Alliance Theatre, Goodman Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, La Jolla Playhouse and Arena Stage. His international work includes Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada and Royal Shakespeare Company in the U.K. He has received seven Joseph Jefferson Awards and 24 nominations; two Ovation Awards and three nominations; a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award; three Drama Desk Award nominations; two Helen Hayes Award nominations; and many others. His film scoring credits include Magnolia Pictures’ The Brass Teapot and HBO Films’ A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin (2006 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject).

Shawn Duan (Projection Design) is a New York-based projection designer and media consultant. He was the video designer for Chinglish on Broadway and for the SCR and Berkeley Repertory Theatre co-production of the show. His off-Broadway and New York credits include Knickerbocker and Before Your Eyes (The Public Theater). His regional credits include Chasing Rainbows, FLY and Miss Saigon (Flat Rock Playhouse), Refugia (The Guthrie Theater), Tarzan (North Shore Music Theatre), Buyer and Cellar (Pittsburgh Public Theater), Shakespeare in Love, Twelfth Night, Vietgone and The Comedy of Errors (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), I Sing the Rising Sea, The Great Gatsby and The Other Place (Virginia Stage Company), Vietgone (Seattle Repertory Theatre) and The Mountaintop (Trinity Repertory Company). His opera credits include Prima Donna (New York City Opera) and Benjamin Button the Opera (Symphony Space). He designed for national and international tours for An Evening with Pacino, PJ Masks Live!, Alvin and the Chipmunks Live!, Super Why! Live!, Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! and for the Las Vegas shows Frankie Moreno: Under the Influence, Paul Zerdin: Mouthing Off and Puppet Up: Uncensored.

Judith Moreland (Dialect Coach) has performed as an actor both on and off-Broadway and has worked with many theatre companies including the New York Shakespeare Festival, Playwrights Horizons, Ensemble Studio Theater Los Angeles and Shakespeare Festival/LA. This past spring, she originated the role of Gloria in the Fountain Theatre’s world premiere of Building the Wall by Robert Schenkkan. She was a company member at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater for many years and won a Bay Area Theater Critics Award for her performance in ACT’s production of Miss Evers’ Boys. She just finished directing Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ An Octoroon for Capital Stage Company in Sacramento. Her other directing credits include Three Sisters and The Kentucky Cycle at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, where she is currently a faculty member and teaches acting, voice, speech and dialects. She is the co-creator of UCLA’s Professional Program in Acting for the Camera. Moreland has also taught at Stanford University, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the British-American Drama Academy in Oxford, England.

Ken Merckx (Fight Chorography) has choreographed fights and taught actors combat for film, television, and at universities all across the country. He is presently a faculty member at AMDA College and Conservatory of Performing Arts (Hollywood). He is the resident fight choreographer for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Great Lakes Theater (Cleveland), Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and A Noise Within (Los Angeles). Merckx received his MFA in acting from University of Illinois and his BA in theatre studies from the University of Washington.

Jamie A. Tucker (Stage Manager) is excited to be returning to SCR after three years away. Tucker completed his MFA in dance, specializing in stage management, at UC Irvine in 1994, and his MBA in marketing from the University of Redlands in 2014. He is currently a professor of stage management and production management at CSU Fullerton. At SCR, he has stage-managed or assisted on more than 60 productions. Some of his favorites have been the world premieres of Three Days of Rain, The Violet Hour, The Dazzle, The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow and Mr. Marmalade. His other favorites include Elemeno Pea, Jitney, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Crimes of the Heart, Fences, Anna in the Tropics, The Trip to Bountiful, A View from the Bridge, Chinglish, Death of a Salesman, Hamlet and The Light in the Piazza. He had the pleasure of working seven seasons on La Posada Mágica and six seasons at the helm of A Christmas Carol. If you can’t find him in the theatre, he is likely to be riding his bike through the canyons of south Orange County. He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity.

Alyssa Escalante (Assistant Stage Manager) is excited to be working on her first SCR production. Her stage management credits include Hold These Truths (Pasadena Playhouse), The House in Scarsdale, My Barking Dog, The Missing Pages of Lewis Carroll, Happy Days, Se Llama Cristina, R2, Cassiopeia, Creation (Theatre @ Boston Court), The Secret Garden (MainStreet Theatre Company), The Haunted House Party, Mojada: a Medea in Los Angeles (Getty Villa), Criers for Hire (East West Players) and Cash on Delivery (El Portal Theatre). She also toured the U.S. with Placas: the Most Dangerous Tattoo. Additionally, Escalante is the database manager and administrative associate at Cornerstone Theater Company. She graduated from Occidental College with a BA in theatre. She is tremendously grateful to her family for their constant love and support.

The Actors and Stage Managers employed in this production are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Cleavant Derricks, Matt Orduña, L. Scott Caldwell and Hal Landon Jr. in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
Arnell Powell and Shinelle Azoroh in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
Shinelle Azoroh, Cleavant Derricks and Matt Orduña in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
Preston Butler III and ​L. Scott Caldwell in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
L. Scott Caldwell and Shinelle Azoroh in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
Preston Butler III and L. Scott Caldwell in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
Matt Orduña (background), L. Scott Caldwell and ​Hal Landon Jr. in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
Arnell Powell and Shinelle Azoroh in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
Preston Butler III and Shinelle Azoroh in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
Cleavant Derrick, ​L. Scott Caldwell and Shinelle Azoroh in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
L. Scott Caldwell, Shinelle Azoroh, Matt Orduña and Preston Butler III in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
Preston Butler III and L. Scott Caldwell in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.
Gem of the Ocean First NightsParty Play: Gem of the Ocean
Opening night theatregoers leapt to a standing ovation the moment August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean concluded—and the enthusiasm and conversations continued at the cast party. read more
Gem of the Ocean CastRole Call: Meet the Cast of Gem of the Ocean
The seven-member cast of Gem of the Ocean is as powerful as the play itself. Meet the cast. read more
Gem of the OceanLiving Memory in Gem of the Ocean
Aunt Ester is a cleanser of souls who may be the only hope for a man named Citizen Barlow. Find out more about Ester’s gift its importance in Gem of the more
AugustWilson_blogAugust Wilson's American Century Cycle
Playwright August Wilson left behind an incredible legacy with his American Century Cycle, a series of 10 plays that chronicles the black experience in the 20th century. read more

John ​& Mary Tu

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