RUBICON THEATRE continues the company's 14th season May 24 with August Wilson's powerful and poignant drama GEM OF THE OCEAN (first preview May 16).
Rubicon's first play by August Wilson is also the first chronologically in the author's 10-play series dramatizing the African-American experience in the Twentieth Century. GEM OF THE OCEAN is a mystical play set in 1904 in Pittsburgh's Hill District. At a local mill, a man is accused of stealing a bucket of nails. But rather than confess to a crime he didn't commit, he jumps in the river and becomes a martyr to his co-workers. Riots break out and the workers begin to strike. Against this turbulent backdrop, another young man named Citizen Barlow arrives at the home of Aunt Ester, a 285-year-old healer who is the keeper of tradition and history for her people. She sends Citizen on a spiritual journey aboard the slave ship Gem of the Ocean-where he must confront his ancestors and then face the truth about himself.
GEM OF THE OCEAN presents a story of forgiveness and remembrance, of past and future, as the characters and the audiences are led on a cathartic and soul-stirring journey. A beautiful blend of the tangible and the spiritual, The New York Times described GEM OF THE OCEAN as a melding of "the plain and the lyrical, the particular and the eternal…into a luminous whole."
GEM OF THE OCEAN is helmed by Rubicon Artistic Director and Co-Founder JAMES O'NEIL, who has directed many of Rubicon's most acclaimed productions, including A Streetcar Named Desire (Indy Award for Direction), All My Sons (2004 Ovation Award for Best Production of a Play) and Driving Miss Daisy (NAACP Award for Direction). O'Neil recently wrote and directed Lonesome Traveler: A Journey Down the Rivers and Streams of American Folk, which was a Critic's Pick in the L.A. Times. (One of the most popular shows in the company's history, Lonesome Traveler returns to the Rubicon stage during the theatre's 15th anniversary season next year.) O'Neil is also an acclaimed actor, having appeared at Rubicon as Claudius in Hamlet and in theatres across the country in productions ranging from 1776 (John Adams), the American regional premiere of Return to the Forbidden Planet (Dr. Prospero), and the National Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar (Pontius Pilate). O'Neil received his B.F.A. from California Institute of the Arts.
Broadway legend Lillias White returns to Rubicon as the 285-year-old spiritual guide Aunt Ester. White starred in the World Premiere of The Best Is Yet To Come: The Music of Cy Coleman, which enjoyed a successful off-Broadway run following its initial engagement at Rubicon and was just nominated for a Drama Desk Award. She was most recently seen last February in her solo cabaret My Guy Cy for Rubicon's Broadway Cabaret Series. White's Broadway performances include Barnum,
Dreamgirls, Cats, Chicago, Once on This Island and, most recently, Fumilayo Anikulapo Kuti in FELA! (Tony nomination).
White was awarded Broadway's "quadruple crown" – the Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, Friends of New York Theatre Award and The Tony Award – for her performance as Sonja in The Life. She has also been seen in several feature films including "Pieces of April" and "Game Six," and has been featured on numerous episodes of "Law & Order". Her distinctive voice is featured in the Walt Disney animated movie "Hercules."
Ventura audiences will find more familiar faces in the cast of GEM OF THE OCEAN, with the return of Anthony J. Haney and Chris Butler. Haney appears as Solly Two Kings, a friend of Aunt Ester's and a former conductor for the Underground Railroad; Butler appears as Caesar Wilkes, a local policeman and land-owner who turns his back on his own people in the name of capitalism. Haney returns to Rubicon after his acclaimed performance as Sam Semela in "Master Harold"…and the boys (Indy Award, Ovation nomination). Haney's work as an actor and director has been seen across the country, most notably at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, California, where he served as the company's first Associate Artistic Director. Earlier this year, he directed the world premiere of Buffalo'ed for the San Jose Stage Company. Butler previously appeared at Rubicon in You Can't Take It With You and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. His performances in the Fountain Theatre's Yellowman and the Matrix Theatre's Stick Fly earned him Ovation, NAACP, Drama Critics' Circle and Garland Awards for Best Actor and Best Ensemble, respectively. Butler has appeared on several television shows, including "The Good Wife," "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "Law & Order: SVU."