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August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean

The American Century Cycle Continues

Directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg

The Joan and Robert Rechnitz Theater

Run Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes including a 15 minute intermission

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Citizen Barlow is looking for peace. To get it, he’ll knock at Aunt Ester’s door every day if that’s what it takes. Set in 1904, the opening installment in August Wilson’s The American Century Cycle includes the playwright’s most fantastical journey, where the secrets of the past point towards future liberation. Gem of the Ocean is the seventh production in the theater’s commitment to stage all ten of Wilson’s visionary epics.

This performance contains: Strong language and adult situations

Gem of the Ocean is made possible through support from the State of New Jersey.


Official Trailer

The GEM OF THE OCEAN Cast & Director Play August Wilson Trivia



Stephanie Berry

STEPHANIE BERRY (AUNT ESTER) recently appeared in Staff Meal at Playwrights Horizon and as Olivia in Classical Theatre of Harlem’s production of Malvolio. She is the 2023 recipient of an Obie Award for Performance, for her role in On Sugarland at the New York Theatre Workshop, and an Obie Award for her solo show, The Shaneequa Chronicles. She is the recipient of an AUDELCO Award for Lead Actress, and she was nominated for the 2023 Drama League Distinguished Performance Award for a bandaged place, which premiered at the Roundabout Theatre. Select theater credits include Sugar in Our Wounds at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Trouble in Mind, Fences and Wild with Happy. Select film and TV credits include Fantasy Island, O.G., Delivery Man, No Reservations, Finding Forrester, The Last OG, Bull, Blue Bloods, “the Blacklist. She is the recipient of the 2022 New Professional Theatre’s Award for Activism, and the 2021 League of Professional Theatre Women’s Lee Reynold’s Award. 

Brian D. Coats

BRIAN D. COATS (ELI) Two River Theater: King Hedley II, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Seven Guitars. New York credits include Broadway’s tour of August Wilson’s Jitney the best we could (A Family Tragedy) (Manhattan Theatre Club), On the Levee (Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3)La Ruta (Working Theater), The Brothers Paranormal (Pan Asian Rep), Travisville (Ensemble Studio Theatre) The Bacchae and The First Noel (Classical Theater of Harlem), The Merry Wives of Windsor and Two Gentlemen of Verona (The Public Theater). Other Regional/Touring credits include productions at Mark Taper, Old Globe, Arena Stage, Seattle Rep, Shakespeare and Co, Pittsburgh Public, Huntington, Cincinnati Playhouse, Denver Center, Williamstown Theater Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Geva Theatre and others. Television credits include: “Queens,” “FBI: Most Wanted, “Luke Cage, “Boardwalk Empire, “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Organized Crime, “Law & Order: SVU,” “JAG,” “Blue Bloods,” and “The Sopranos.” Mr. Coats is a graduate of the University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts  

Crystal A. Dickinson

CRYSTAL A. DICKINSON (BLACK MARY) is so happy to be back at TRT! Previous productions include Wine in the Wilderness, A Raisin in The Sun and Seven Guitars. Broadway: the Tony Award Winning Play, Clybourne Park, and Tony Nominated Play, You Can’t Take It With You; Recent Off-Broadway credits include: Covenant at Roundabout, The White Chip at MCC, Lessons In Survival:1971 at The Vineyard Theater and Cullud Wattah at The Public Theater. She has also performed at Lincoln Center, Signature Theater, Playwrights Horizons and The Atlantic; Film & TV credits: I Origins, “The Good Wife”, “Feed the Beast”, “New Amsterdam” and recurring roles on the Showtime drama, “The CHI” and ABC’s, “For Life”.

Brandon J. Dirden

BRANDON J. DIRDEN (CAESAR WILKS) recently appeared on Broadway starring in the Tony Award winning production of Take Me Out and Skeleton Crew for which he received a Drama Desk nominationHe also appeared on Broadway as Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Tony Award-winning production of All the Way, with Bryan Cranston, as ‘Booster’; the Tony Award winning revival of August Wilson’s Jitney; Clybourne Park; Enron; and Prelude to a Kiss. Off-Broadway, he has appeared in The Piano Lesson, for which he won Obie, Theatre World and AUDELCO awards; The First Breeze of Summer and Day of Absence at Signature Theatre; Detroit ’67 at the Public Theater and Classical Theatre of Harlem; Peter and the Starcatcher at New York Theatre Workshop; and as ‘Brutus’ in TFANA’s production of Julius Caesar. On screen he has appeared in “The Good Wife”, “For Life”, “Evil”, “The Big C”, “Public Morals”, “Manifest”, “The Get Down”, “The Accidental Wolf”, “Blue Bloods, “The Quad”, the FX miniseries “Mrs. America” and four seasons of FX’s “The Americans” as Agent Dennis Aderholt. He has directed numerous plays by Dominique Morisseau and August Wilson and recently Wine in the Wilderness by Alice Childress for Two River Theater. Brandon is an Associate Arts Professor on the faculty of Tisch Grad Acting at NYU; a frequent volunteer at the 52nd Street Project; and a proud member of both Actor’s Equity Association and Fair Wage On Stage.    

Bill Irwin

BILL IRWIN (RUTHERFORD SELIG) is an actor, director, writer, and clown. His original works include The Regard of Flight; Largely New York; Fool Moon; Old Hats, and The Happiness Lecture. Broadway: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The Goat; Waiting For Godot; Iceman Cometh; Fool Moon, Largely New York; Bye Bye Birdie. Off-Broadway: The Regard of Flight; Endgame; Old Hats; On Beckett (an evening of passages from the writings of Samuel Beckett). Television: Elmo’s World (Mr Noodle); CSI; Legion; Law and Order SVU; New Amsterdam; Blue Bloods; Quarry. Film: Rachel Getting Married; The Grinch Who Stole Christmas; Spoiler Alert; Interstellar; Eight Men Out; Stepping Out; Silent Tongue. He gratefully acknowledges awards and fellowships that have allowed a life in the theatre. 

James A. Williams

JAMES A. WILLIAMS (AKA JW) (Solly Two Kings) is a mainstay of Twin Cities theater, a founding member of Penumbra Theatre Company. JW has an extensive performing history in the regional theater circuit. In addition to performing all 10 plays of the August Wilson Canon, JW was in Mr. Wilson’s first professional production “Black Bart and The Sacred Hills” at Penumbra Theatre. The highlight of his stage career is that Mr. Wilson created a character for him (Roosevelt Hicks) in his final play Radio Golf. He was one of three actors to remain with the show from its world premiere at Yale Repertory Theater through its Broadway run.

As Director of Teen Programming at Pillsbury House Theatre, he created The Power of Our Voices, a teen social justice ensemble. James served as Artistic Director for The Hennepin County Home School Theatre Project (a six week playwriting workshop for incarcerated youth). He is currently Artistic Director of The Mill City Players Youth Troupe, using theater to teach communication and life skills to homeless youth. He has led social justice theater workshops at Brown University, Colby College, Macalester College, The University of Minnesota, Penumbra Theatre, The International School of Kenya and Nshupu and Akeri secondary schools in Tanzania.

James was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2005 and named Artist of the Year by The Minneapolis StarTribune in 2008. He is also a 2008 TCG Future Leader of American Theater, a 2015 McKnight Theater Fellow and a 2015 Fox Foundation Distinguished Acting Fellow. JW is also a 2018 Lunt Fontanne Fellow.

In 2012 his alma mater, Macalester College, named Mr. Williams A Distinguished Global Citizen. In 2023 the school bestowed upon him a Doctorate of Humane Letters and renamed the Black Box Theater in his honor.

Stephen Tyrone Williams

STEPHEN TYRONE WILLIAMS (CITIZEN BARLOW) is thrilled to make his Two River debut. Select NYC theatre Broadway: Lucky Guy (Broadhurst), and Jitney (Manhattan Theatre Club); Off-Broadway: Harper Regan (Atlantic Theater Company), The Hallway Trilogy (Rattlestick Theater), Burning (The New Group) and My Children! My Africa! (Signature Theatre); and select Film & TV: “Elementary,” “The Knick,” Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Phil Spector, and Restless City. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama. He is a recognized actor/combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors as well as with the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat. 



August Wilson
August Wilson

AUGUST WILSON (PLAYWRIGHT) (April 27, 1945-October 2, 2005) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II, and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of African-Americans, decade-by-decade, over the course of the twentieth century. His plays have been produced at regional theaters across the country and all over the world, as well as on Broadway. In 2003, Mr. Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned. Mr. Wilson’s works garnered many awards including Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987); and for The Piano Lesson (1990); a Tony Award for Fences; Great Britain’s Olivier Award for Jitney; as well as eight New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, Jitney, and Radio Golf. Additionally, the cast recording of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom received a 1985 Grammy Award, and Mr. Wilson received a 1995 Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Piano Lesson. Mr. Wilson’s early works included the one-act plays The Janitor, Recycle, The Coldest Day of the Year, Malcolm X, The Homecoming and the musical satire Black Bart and the Sacred Hills. Mr. Wilson received many fellowships and awards, including Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships in Playwrighting, the Whiting Writers Award, 2003 Heinz Award, was awarded a 1999 National Humanities Medal by the President of the United States, and received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, as well as the only high school diploma ever issued by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He was an alumnus of New Dramatists, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a 1995 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and on October 16, 2005, Broadway renamed the theater located at 245 West 52nd Street – The August Wilson Theatre. Additionally, Mr. Wilson was posthumously inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2007. Mr. Wilson was born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and lived in Seattle, Washington at the time of his death. He is immediately survived by his two daughters, Sakina Ansari and Azula Carmen Wilson, and his wife, costume designer Constanza Romero. 


Delicia Turner Sonnenberg
Delicia Turner Sonnenberg

DELICIA TURNER SONNENBERG (DIRECTOR) (she/her) is making her Two River debut. She is a founder and the former Artistic Director of MOXIE Theatre, which she helmed for twelve acclaimed seasons receiving the Des McAnuff New Visions Award for “Risk Taking Leadership and Body of Work,” as well as the Don Braunagel Award for “Outstanding Work by a Small Theater” from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle. In addition to MOXIE, Delicia has directed plays for The Old Globe Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego REP, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Utah Shakespeare and Round House Theatre among others. Some honors include: the Van Lier Directing Fellowship (Second Stage Theatre, New York), New York Drama League’s Directors Program, as well as Theatre Communication Group’s New Generations Program. Recent credits include Selma Burke (World Premiere), Theatre Calgary; Appropriate, South Coast Repertory; Coming up: Derecho (World Premiere), La Jolla Playhouse. 

Scenic Designer

Lawrence E. Moten III
Lawrence E. Moten III

LAWRENCE E. MOTEN III (SCENIC DESIGNER) (he/him/his) Broadway: Chicken & Biscuits (Circle In The Square); What The Constitution Means to Me (Broadway & Tour Associate). NYC: The White Chip (MCC); Covenant (Roundabout); Patience (2ST Uptown); STEW & Stargazers (Page 73). Regional: Black Cypress Bayou (Geffen); Bulrusher (McCarter & Berkeley Rep); Faust (Wolf Trap Opera); The Brothers Size, Proof & Once Upon A Bridge (American Players) ;Twelfth Night, Trouble In Mind, King James (Old Globe); Blues For An Alabama Sky (McCarter & Guthrie); Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily (Alley Theatre); Appropriate & The Little Foxes (South Coast Rep); Christmas in Connecticut (Goodspeed Musicals); This Little Light of Mine (Santa Fe Opera); Requiem (INSeries Opera); The Last Supper (SOPAC); Much Ado About Nothing (Commonwealth Shakespeare); How I Learned What I Learned and Native Son (Playmakers Rep); it’s not a trip, it’s a journey and We Declare You A Terrorist… (Round House); Gem of The Ocean (Portland Center Stage); The West End (Cincinnati Playhouse); Hype Man (ART & Company One); Gloria (ACT); Hi, Are You Single? (Woolly Mammoth); House of Joy (CalShakes); The Royale (Capital Rep); Behind The Sheet (Ensemble Studio Theatre). Member: USA 829 & Wingspace Theatrical Design.; IG: @motendesigns 

Costume Designer

Nicole Jescinth Smith
Nicole Jescinth Smith

NICOLE JESCINTH SMITH (COSTUME DESIGNER) is a costume designer based out of New York and Miami. Ms. Smith has her M.F.A. from the University of Tennessee in Theatrical Costume Design and a BFA from the University of Miami with a minor in Art History. Upon moving back to New York, Nicky began working at the Metropolitan Opera House as the Costume Shop Supervisor of Men’s Chorus, Ballet, Supernumeraries and Children’s wardrobe. After leaving the Met, Ms. Smith went on to be the Associate Costume Designer on Venus in Fur, which won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play. Seeking more television, fashion and production work, Nicole went on to other projects such as working in the costume and wardrobe department of “The Tonight Show”, an assistant stylist for Brooks Brothers and wardrobe styling commercials, promo and a tv series with companies such as MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, NBC. All of which lead to the position of In House Senior Fashion Stylist with VH1’s New York offices. Ms. Smith left VHI to become the Assistant Costume Designer on The Americans for Season 4-6. Recent design credits include Assistant Costume Designer on Bull (CBS), Pose” Season 2 (FX) for which Ms. Smith received a 2020 EMMY Nomination in the category of Outstanding Period Costumes. Using the success of her Emmy nomination, Ms. Smith moved from assistant to lead in 2021. Her credits include Kindred (pilot/FX) episode, Ramy Season 3 (a24) and Up Here (Disney). With her success in MOPIC, Ms Smith found herself missing her first love, theatre. She worked on a stellar production of Trouble in Mind in 2022 at The Old Globe and is attached to 2:22 A Ghost Story which is slated for a Broadway run this fall. Ms. Smith currently resides in Queens NY and where she continues pushing for inclusivity and sustainability by supporting BIPOC, LGBT+ and women lead vendors and brands. Nicole is the founder of the grassroots initiative R.O.C.K. (Raising Our Collective Knowledge) that seeks to educate and prepare BIPOC youth as they seek to entire the fashion and costume design work force. 

Lighting Designer

Sherrice Mojgani
Sherrice Mojgani

SHERRICE MOJGANI (LIGHTING DESIGNER) (she/her/hers) recently designed Bulrusher and Blues for an Alabama Sky (McCarter Theatre Center); The Mountaintop, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Round House Theater); Tiny Beautiful Things, The Folks at Home and The Garden (Baltimore Center Stage); The High Ground, The Heiress and Two Trains Running (Arena Stage); Spunk, Ain’t Misbehavinand The Scottsboro Boys (Signature Theatre Company); A Raisin in the Sun, Murder on the Orient Express, A Few Good Men and Sweat (Pittsburgh Public Theatre); Trouble in Mind, What You Are and Skeleton Crew (The Old Globe). Sherrice is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She holds a B.A. in Theater Arts from UC Santa Cruz and an M.F.A. in Lighting Design from UC San Diego. 

Sound Designer and Composer

Fitz Patton
Fitz Patton

FITZ PATTON (SOUND DESIGNER & COMPOSER) Broadway: I Need That, The Rose Tattoo (Tony Nomination), Choir Boy (Tony, Drama Desk Awards), Bernhart/Hamlet, Three Tall Women, Meteor Shower, Present Laughter, The Little Foxes, The Humans (Drama Desk Award), Our Mother’s Brief Affair, Blackbird, The Father, An Act of God (Drama Desk Nomination), It’s Only a Play, Airline Highway, The Other Place, Outside Mullingar, Casa Valentina. Selected Off-Broadway: HEART, The Perplexed, Greater Clements, The Mother, Torch Song; Napoli Brooklyn, Yen, Prodigal Son, The Other Place (Drama Desk nomination); and When the Rain Stops Falling (Drama Desk; Lortel Awards). He is the founding editor of Chance Magazine, a serialized art book about performance and design  

Wig, Hair and Makeup Designer

Cici Campbell
Cici Campbell

CICI CAMPBELL (WIG, HAIR & MAKEUP DESIGNER) Theatre: Hair and wig designer for film, television and stage with over thirty years of work experience in the industry. Her entry into the theatre came from working on Bob Fosse’s musical Dancin’ as an assistant wig stylist. She developed a passion for period pieces after working on 42nd Street, Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera. She has also assisted in the wig design for the Broadway musical Hot Feet, a production featuring the music of Earth, Wind and Fire, and has collaborated with Ms. Karen Perry on the wig design for several stage productions: Breath, Boom at The Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean at The McCarter Theatre, and Princeton featuring Ms. Phylicia Rashad and Mr. John Amos.

Intimacy and Movement

Kaja Dunn
Kaja Dunn

KAJA DUNN (INTIMACY AND MOVEMENT) is delighted to return to Two River Theatre, she is a multi-hyphante artist, scholar and intimacy professional. Resident Intimacy and Cultural Consultant for Folger Theatre, and associate professor at Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. Intimacy work includes: Broadway: A Strange Loop (Assoc. Intimacy Director); Television: The Best Man, Final Chapters, Harlem, Mayor of Kingstown, The Equalizer. Two River Theatre: Wine In The Wilderness; Folger Theatre: The Winter’s Tale, Our Verse In Time To Come, MetamorphosesThe Reading Room; Arena Stage: American Prophet; Denver Center for the Arts: Choir Boy, 5th Ave; ACT Theatre (Seattle): Choir Boy; St. Louis Rep.: Private Lives, Confederates; Penumbra Theatre: Sugar In Our Wounds;Awards: Kennedy Center American Theatre Award, Playwrights Project Excellence in Arts Education; Publications: Intimacy Coordinator’s Guidebook, Arden Contemporary Shakespeare, Intimacy Direction For Theatre, Theatre Symposium, HowlRound, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (UK). This winter she will be directing Lauren Gunderson’s new world premier at the Folger Theatre and Cincinnati Rep. Her favorite role is mom to Ian, Zeke and Auggie.   

Production Stage Manager

Kate Croasdale
Kate Croasdale

KATE CROASDALE (PRODUCTION STATE MANAGER) is delighted to return to Two River after stage managing Two Sisters and a Piano, Guadalupe in the Guest Room, The Tricky Part and All The Rage. Broadway: Sea Wall/A Life, Sunday in the Park with George, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Ghost The Musical, Dead Accounts and Relatively Speaking. Off-Broadway Credits include: Stargazers (Page 73), Mary Gets Hers (Playwrights Realm) and Mud/Drowning (Mabou Mines). Kate has also worked with: City Center Encores!, The Public Theater, NAATCO, EST, New York Stage and Film, Bay Street Theater and Kaimera Productions. She is proud to be a core teacher for the Peridance Certificate Program. 

Assistant Stage Manager

Alex Murphy
Alex Murphy

ALEX MURPHY (ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER) (he/him/they) returns to Two River Theater after Stage Managing the world premiere of Kate Hamill’s adaptation of The Scarlet Letter. Previous Two River Theater credits include: Two Sisters and a Piano, Wine in the WildernessRegional: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the Musical, Justice at War (Coterie Theatre); A Christmas Carol, Still Ready (Actors Theatre of Louisville), American Prophet (Arena Stage). National Tour: The Prom. Off-Broadway: The Harder They Come, Romeo and Bernadette, Two’s a Crowd. Alex was the Resident Stage Manager for Kansas City Actors Theatre in Kansas City, MO, for three seasons, working on such productions as Death and the Maiden, And Then There Were None, and Skylight. 


David Caparelliotis and Joseph Gery
David Caparelliotis and Joseph Gery

CAPARELLIOTIS CASTING (CASTING) Two River Theater: A Thousand Maids, The Scarlet Letter. Select Broadway: Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, Grey House, Ohio State Murders, Cost of Living, Macbeth, The Minutes, Skeleton Crew, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, King Lear, The Waverly Gallery, The Boys in the Band, A Doll’s House, Part 2, Jitney, The Glass Menagerie. Additional theater includes: MTC, The Old Globe, Atlantic Theater Company. TV/Film: “New Amsterdam” (NBC), “The Boys in the Band” for Netflix (Original Casting).


Vibrant, passionate, and wholly affecting.”


Extraordinary and compelling.”


“Sonnenberg directs with confidence and insight, giving us a “Gem” at once reverent of Wilson’s achievement and attuned to why the work remains so continuously vital.”


“We highly recommend for our readers see Gem of the Ocean.  It is an opportunity to experience Wilson’s abundant talents as a playwright in a superb production.”





A Chat with Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg





Dates and tickets

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