Gem of the Ocean premieres at FAMU

Many viewers were on hand Wednesday night at the Charles Winter Wood Theatre to witness the premiere of the August Wilson's showcase Gem of The Ocean.

The play is the first of Wilson's 10 play century long cycle called "The Pittsburgh Cycle" that gives insight on the African American presence and experience in America during the twentieth century.

The setting of the play takes place in North Pittsburgh, during 1904, a time when black people struggled to operate within the confines that excluded them from full participation in a society built on the promise of the emancipation proclamation.

Actors Yesenia Ozuna (Black Merry) and
Caleb Thermidor (Citizen Barlow) appear in FAMU's
Essential Theatre Gem of The Ocean.

Citizen Barlow, a young man from Alabama, ends up at 1839 Wylie Avenue. He finds himself on the doorsteps of Aunt Ester, a spiritual healer, in pursuit of being cleansed.

This is where Gem of the Ocean begins to explore the elements of the West African and Christian Spirituality. 

Director Luther Wells said he was glad the audience enjoyed the showcase and hoped they were able to take with them the message being portrayed throughout the play.

"I was very thrilled with the things went tonight,” Wells said. “The message is we have to know ourselves and return to our roots in order to fully appreciate our own lives. Staying connected to our ancestors so that we have an idea as to where we've been which, in turn will give us a sense as to where we're going."

Kimberly Harding, the marketing manager, said that August Wilson’s play has definitely had a great impact on American theatre.

"August Wilson is one writer who has accomplished writing a cycle of plays, that no other writer has ever done,” Harding said. “His work undeniably has made a major influence on the American canon theatrical works." 

Chelsea Jones, a junior business administration student from Orlando, Fla., said she enjoyed the showcase and that she would recommend others to attend the upcoming show.

"I will greatly advise everyone to attend the next show,” said Jones. “The Essential Theatre did a great job and I loved every moment of it."

Gem of The Ocean can also be seen Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. and Sunday at 
3 p.m.  at the Charles Winter Wood Theatre.

Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and FAMU employees with ID, $8 for students and children, and FAMU students free with ID.