The Prescott-Joseph Center Presents the Lower Bottom Playaz starring in
Gem of the Ocean
Lower Bottom Playaz Directed by Ayodele Nzinga- Gem 2010 from Ayodele Nzinga on Vimeo.
Gem is the first chronologically in the Pittsburgh Cycle but Wilson penned it in 2003 followed by Radio Golf, which is the last in the cycle chronologically and also the last play before his death in October of 2005. From Gem of the Ocean to Radio Golf, August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle speaks the 20th Century North American African experience.
Wilson is a giant easily compared to O’Neil, Shakespeare, and Faulkner by critics who esteem themselves in their knowledge of American Theater. His Pittsburgh Cycle is among the best theater created in America bar none. “This cycle,” notes the theater critic Christopher Rawson, “is unprecedented in American theater for its concept, size, and cohesion.” Gem is its foundation piece. It is the work you must understand to properly contextualize Wilson’s companion work.
On the surface, it is a simple parable. “You die by how you live.” However, as parables are never truly simple, neither is the quoted epithet. In the simple, but not so simple over story, a man is falsely accused of a crime. His death sparks a riot at the mill the only employer in town albeit an oppressive benefactor reminiscent of sharecropping and company store arrangements in the South. A young man running from the abuse of Blacks by whites in a post slavery Alabama comes Pittsburgh for an opportunity in the “big world” his mother tells him is out there beyond the harsh South. He ends up coming to Aunt Ester the matriarch of 1839 Wiley Avenue to have his soul washed of the blood he feels he has on his hands. He meets Aunt Ester’s circle of lively associates and is helped by Ester to “get right with himself” as things at the mill reach a dramatic peak that reveal to the audience and the young traveler what it means to “live right” in the most impossible of circumstance.
In the end of the play the mill has been burned down to the ground, leaving the folks with no place to work. Are they better or worse off or worse off as the Black Boss Man predicts they will be if the mill were to ever close?
Aunt Ester says, “I knew a man that went to fix the wheel, it was turning backwards, time he was finished the wheel didn’t turn at all, you got to be careful, everything ain’t what it seem.”
Ayodele “WordSlanger” Nzinga
Table with Amenities - $25
General Admission - $15
Group Rates Available
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