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Gem Of The Ocean’

Cygnet Theater Performs From August Wilson’s Play

The cast of Cygnet Theater's

Credit: Cygnet Theater

Above: The cast of Cygnet Theater's "Gem of the Ocean."

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To celebrate Black History Month, Cygnet Theater brings in some of the cast from August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean” to share a scene. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando sat down with Sean Murray, Cygnet Theater’s artistic director and co-director of “Gem of the Ocean,” and actress Brenda Phillips who plays Aunt Ester to discuss the scene.

Set in 1904, "Gem of the Ocean" tells the story of drifter Citizen Barlow, who arrives at the home of Aunt Ester in search of asylum and spiritual redemption. The 287-year-old Aunt Ester guides Barlow on a journey of self-discovery to the mythical City of Bones, on which, Ester tells Barlow, everything is built. Once there, Barlow finds absolution and makes a startling discovery of faith that moves him to act beyond the boundaries of his conscience.

Sean Murray, co-director of "Gem of the Ocean," and actress Brenda Phillips discuss Wilson's play and introduce two scenes performed by cast members of the play. (Thanks to Kurt Kohnen for recording the performance audio.)

“Gem of the Ocean” concludes its run at Cygnet Theater on Sunday. On Thursday February 21, there will will be a special event following the performance, African American Literature: Post-show forum with UCSD’s Dr. Camille F. Forbes, author of “Introducing Bert Williams.”

To date, none of August Wilson's plays have been brought to the big screen. "The Piano Lesson" was made into a TV movie in 1995 with Charles Dutton and Alfre Woodard in the leads. The first feature film of Wilson's work is set to open in 2015, it will be "Fences," directed by and starring Denzel Washington.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Cygnet Theater

Sean Murray and Brenda Phillips of Cygnet Theater with KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando after recording scenes from "Gem of the Ocean."


Victor Mack, Director

Sean Murray, Co-Director

August Wilson, Playwright


Laurence Brown as Citizen Barlow

Antonio "TJ" Johnson as Solly Two Kings

Grandison M. Phelps III as Eli

Brenda Phillips as Aunt Ester Tyler

The Pittsburgh Cycle

"Gem of the Ocean" (2003) – 1900s

"Joe Turner’s Come and Gone" (1988) – 1910s

"Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" (1984) – 1920s

"The Piano Lesson" (1990) – 1930s

"Seven Guitars" (1995) – 1940s

"Fences" (1987) – 1950s

"Two Trains Running" (1991) – 1960s

"Jitney" (1982) – 1970s

"King Hedley II" (1999) – 1980s

"Radio Golf" (2005) – 1990s


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