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UofL theatre set to stage August Wilson’s ‘Gem of the Ocean’

by Erica Walsh, communications and marketing last modified Apr 01, 2014 03:16 PM

A nearly 300-year-old spiritual matriarch leads several characters on a journey to discover their past in the latest production from University of Louisville theatre.

UofL’s Department of Theatre Arts and the African American Theatre Program will present “Gem of the Ocean,” directed by Clinton Turner Davis, from April 9-13 at The Playhouse, 1911 S. Third St.

“Gem of the Ocean” is the earliest-set play in playwright August Wilson’s 10-production epic “The Pittsburgh Cycle,” which chronicles the black experience in the 20th century. Nominated for a Tony in 2005 after a run on Broadway, the play is set in 1904 Pittsburgh and centers on Aunt Ester, a Pittsburgh “soul cleanser” and former slave who is rumored to be 285 years old and her efforts to help Citizen Barlow, a young black man who is seeking forgiveness for a crime he committed. As racial strife envelops Pittsburgh, Aunt Ester sends Citizen on a lyrical, spiritual journey on the ship Gem of the Ocean to the City of Bones. 

Davis, who is guest directing, has worked on Broadway and across the country. He has directed several productions of Wilson’s “The Pittsburgh Cycle” throughout his distinguished career. He last visited Louisville in 2005 when he directed Carlyle Brown’s “Pure Confidence” at Actors Theatre.

Tickets for “Gem of the Ocean” are $15 for adults and $12 for students, seniors, faculty, staff and alumni. Show times are 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 9 – Friday, April 11; 2 p.m., Saturday, April 12; and 3 and 8 p.m., Sunday, April 13. 

For more information or to reserve a ticket, call the box office at (502) 852-6814 or visit

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