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Home » Production History » 2019 Productions » Gem of the Ocean

Gem of the Ocean

Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company in association with August Wilson House present


By August Wilson
Directed by Andrea Frye
Preview August 23rd
Ran August 24th through Sept. 22nd, 2019
Presented outdoors at 1839 Wylie Ave. in Pittsburgh’s Hill District

“Aunt Ester has come home….a searing, solid production”
– Sharon Eberson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean features the potent power of Aunt Ester, Wilson’s gatekeeper to spiritual matters, and the hearts of the Hill residents she loves. When Aunt Ester opens her home at 1839 Wylie Avenue to the troubled Citizen Barlow, a recent migrant from the rural South, a battle ensues not only within Citizen, who begs Aunt Ester to “wash his soul,” but also between Citizen and Caesar Wilks, a stern man of the law, threatened by Citizen’s independence and defiance of his authority. As Solly Two Kings becomes a mentor for Citizen and a model of a man, bound by nothing but freedom, Citizen must choose a past steeped in fear, or a future made glorious with destiny and purpose.

“It feels that Ester could, if she wanted, snap her fingers and detach the room from its soil and send it sailing into the sky…fantastic, unbelievable, and affecting.”
– Alex Gordon, City Paper

We performed August Wilson’s masterwork outdoors at the actual location given in the play for 285-year-old Aunt Ester’s home, 1839 Wylie Avenue.

“Compelling and dramatically rewarding”
– Ted Hoover, Pittsburgh Current

“There is something otherworldly and enchanting in seeing Wilson’s fictional house, with its historically-rich characters and conflicts, conjured into existence on the very site he dreamed it.”
– W. Arons, Pittsburgh Tatler

Reviews: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, City Paper, Pittsburgh Current, Pittsburgh in the Round, Pittsburgh Tatler, Moundsville blog, Burgh Vivant (video)

Read the program book (PDF)

Previews: Post-Gazette, Post-Gazette (info on the schedule change), Pittsburgh Current, Post-Gazette, Audio cast interview on WRCT’s Ebony Spectrum

“Vivid and memorable”
– Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh in the Round


Chrystal Bates as Aunt Ester
Jonathan Berry as Citizen
Kevin Brown as Solly Two Kings
Les Howard as Eli
Wali Jamal as Caesar
Marcus Muzopappa as Selig
Candace Walker as Black Mary

Production Photos (click for more)

Meet our all-woman production and design crew!

Director Andrea Frye
Producer Ashley Southers
Stage Manager Shanita Bivins
Music Kathryn Bostic
Sound Design Angela Baughman
Lighting Design Latrice Lovett
Scenic Design/TD Diane Melchitzky
Costume Designer Kim Brown
Hair and Makeup Designer Cheryl El-Walker
Master Electrician Madeleine Steineck
Fight Director Lisa Ann Goldsmith

Building The Set  (click for more)

Watch the cast in a brief scene on Pittsburgh Today Live

Production support by:

Funder logos

Gem of the Ocean artwork by Darnell Chambers.
Production photos by J.L. Martello/ 18ricco.
Set construction photos by Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre.