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Two River Theater

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: JUN 8 – 30 / 2024


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. Featuring beloved Two River artists Crystal A. Dickinson (Wine in the Wilderness, A Raisin in the Sun) and Brandon J. Dirden (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Topdog/Underdog), Gem of the Ocean is the seventh production in the theater’s commitment to stage all ten of Wilson’s visionary epics.

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August Wilson

AUGUST WILSON (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 is a founder and the former Artistic Director of MOXIE Theatre, which she helmed for 12 acclaimed seasons where she received the Des McAnuff New Visions Award for “Risk Taking Leadership and Body of Work” and “2015 Director of the Year” from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle. She is currently a Resident Artist at the Old Globe Theatre. Delicia has directed plays for The Old Globe Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival, Utah Shakespeare Festival, San Diego REP, among many others. Some honors include: Theatre Communications Group’s New Generations Program, San Diego Theatre Critics Circle awards, KPBS Theatre awards, NAACP awards, a Women’s International Living Legacy Award, Van Lier Fund Fellowship (Second Stage Theatre) and the New York Drama League’s Directors Program.

Crystal A. Dickinson

Crystal Dickinson is so happy to be back at TRT! Previous productions include Wine in the WildernessA 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: 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 OriginsThe 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 is truly grateful to be returning to Red Bank.  Wine in the Wilderness marked his fourth time directing for Two River Theater. Previously, Brandon made his directorial debut with August Wilson’s Seven Guitars and followed that up with King Hedley II and last season’s Radio Golf.  As an actor, he has been seen in the Two River Theater acclaimed productions of Topdog UnderdogJitney, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the world premiere of Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine by Ruben Santiago Hudson and A Raisin in the Sun. Brandon most 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 nomination.  He 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 Juilius Caesar. On screen he has appeared in The Good Wife, For Life, Evil, The Big C, Public Morals, Mainifest, 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.  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 Actor’s Equity Association.