(out of 4)
Chicago Sun-Times

Jan 22 - Feb 27, 2022 in Goodman's Albert Theatre

Around 3 hours and 15 minutes with intermission

A major revival of the play that begins August Wilson’s epic 10-play American Century Cycle—on the stage where it premiered in 2003.

Tensions flare into riots across Pittsburgh’s Hill District as chaos threatens a city desperate for freedom. It’s 1904, the dawn of the new century—yet slavery’s shadow looms large. There is solace to be found at the home of 285-year-old Ester Tyler, keeper and transmitter of African American history and cleanser of souls. When a suspicious traveler appears at her door in search of a new life, Aunt Ester guides him on a journey of spiritual awakening.

Wardell Julius Clark will be appearing as Citizen Barlow for all remaining performances.

Read Content Advisory Info
  • Gem of the Ocean is appropriate for ages 14 and up. It contains mature themes and adult language. For more information contact the box office at 312.443.3800

Check out Behind the Curtain, our digital interview series with Director Chuck Smith and cast members of Gem of the Ocean where they discuss August Wilson's work, their roles and more. Watch the full interviews here.


Please note: Proof of vaccination with an FDA or WHO-authorized vaccine is required for all guests. Masks are required at all times and patrons under 5 are not permitted. Learn more at GoodmanTheatre.org/Protocols.

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Contact the box office at 312.443.3800 (12noon - 5pm, daily).

Critical Praise
  • "Epic...Wilson speaks to us across the centuries"

    - Chicago Tribune

  • "A powerful look at Black History"

    - Around the Town Chicago

  • " absolutely takes your breath away...a production that should not be missed."

    - Chicago Theatre Review

  • "A powerful revival...[August Wilson] was born to tell this story"

    - Chicago Sun-Times

  • [Gem of the Ocean] "is a full theatrical experience"

    - Chicago Tribune

  • A "powerhouse production that moves seamlessly from the tragic to the comic."

    - WTTW

Audience Feedback
  • I laughed. I cried. I was blown away. So so good!

    Grant S. via Facebook

  • Rich. Epic. Full of life, struggle, humor, love & magic.

    @austintichenor via Facebook

  • Phenomenal production! Very moving.

    @dawn.arianna via Instagram

  • Excellent production. A must see!

    @kathyb1204 via Instagram

  • I loved this play! It was so powerful and inspirational. Go see it if you can.

    Alonna M. via Facebook

  • August Wilson

    August Wilson Playwright

  • Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith Director

  • Sharif Atkins

    Sharif Atkins Citizen Barlow

  • Sydney Charles

    Sydney Charles Black Mary

  • Wardell Julius Clark

    Wardell Julius Clark Citizen Barlow

  • Lisa Gaye Dixon

    Lisa Gaye Dixon Aunt Ester

  • Gary Houston

    Gary Houston Rutherford Selig

  • Kelvin Roston, Jr.

    Kelvin Roston, Jr. Caesar

  • A.C. Smith

    A.C. Smith Eli

  • James A. Williams

    James A. Williams Solly Two Kings

  • Ronald L. Conner

    Ronald L. Conner Understudy

  • Krystel V. McNeil

    Krystel V. McNeil Understudy

  • Joseph Primes

    Joseph Primes Understudy

  • Ron E. Rains

    Ron E. Rains Understudy

  • TayLar

    TayLar Understudy

  • Linda Buchanan

    Linda Buchanan Set Designer

  • Evelyn M. Danner

    Evelyn M. Danner Costume Designer

  • Robert Perry

    Robert Perry Lighting Designer

  • Pornchanok (Nok) Kanchanabanca

    Pornchanok (Nok) Kanchanabanca Sound Designer

  • Mike Tutaj

    Mike Tutaj Projection Designer

  • Briana J. Fahey

    Briana J. Fahey Production Stage Manager

  • Nikki Blue

    Nikki Blue Stage Manager

  • Lauren Port

    Lauren Port Casting

  • Rachael Jimenez

    Rachael Jimenez Casting

  • Jared Bellot

    Jared Bellot Dramaturg

  • Fatima Sowe

    Fatima Sowe Dramaturg

  • Mac Gay Anderson-Cooper

    Mac Gay Anderson-Cooper Assoc. Director

  • Michelle E. Benda

    Michelle E. Benda Asst. Lighting Designer

  • Stan Brown

    Stan Brown Voice & Text Coach

  • Rebecca Goodman

    Rebecca Goodman Asst. to the Director

  • Nick Sandys

    Nick Sandys Fight Coordinator & Intimacy Consultant

Enhanced Performances

Join us for any of the following accessible & enhanced performances.

Questions? Please contact 312.443.3800 (voice), 312.443.3829 (TTY/TDD) or email Access@GoodmanTheatre.org.

Touch Tour and Audio Described performanceTouch Tour* and Audio-Described Performance
Saturday, February 19
12:30pm Touch Tour & 2pm Performance

American Sign Language Interpreted PerformanceAmerican Sign Language-Interpreted Performance
Friday, February 25 at 8pm

Open Caption Performance Open-Captioned Performance
Saturday, February 26 at 2pm

Spanish Caption Spanish Subtitles Performance
Thursday, February 24 at 7:30pm

Learn More About Accessible & Enhanced Performances for Gem of the Ocean

*Touch Tours for the 2021/2022 Season will not have access to the stage due to current health and safety protocols, but will feature alternate pre-show sensory introductions.

Hidden Gems
  • Hidden Gems

    Hidden Gems: A Celebration of African American Artists & Art

    In celebration of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, Goodman Theatre is presenting Hidden Gems: A Celebration of African American Artists & Art throughout the run of the play. During this FREE month-long celebration, patrons will be able to see weekly art installations featuring some of Chicago’s most revered artists and artisans, culminating with an artisan vendor fair on Saturday, February 26.


Behind the Curtin

Take a peek Behind the Curtain—a digital video series where we talk plays, process and more. Goodman’s producer, Malkia Stampley, and the cast of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean discuss the lauded playwright’s work and the epic return of this production to the stage where it originally premiered nearly 20 years ago.


Recommended Reads
  • August Wilson

    The Ground on Which He Stood

    June, 1996 - Legendary playwright August Wilson stood before an audience at the Theatre Communications Group National Conference and gave a keynote address that sent shock waves through the theater industry. In this article, Gem of the Ocean Dramaturg Jared Bellot summarizes the life, legacy and lasting impact of Mr. Wilson.


  • Standing Up

    Standing Up

    August Wilson had a special relationship with Chicago– including a one-of-a-kind collaboration with longtime Goodman Resident Director Chuck Smith. As he prepares to direct what he considers the most important work in the 10-play Century Cycle, Mr. Smith opens up about his time spent with the Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright.


Season Overview

Welcome back to your home for theater, Goodman Theatre.

A thrilling line-up awaits as we return to stage and resume performances. The 2021/2022 Season reflects the artistic excellence that you love, and the commitment to our Chicago community that you expect. Come share the moments—together, in-person, once again—that inspire our collective humanity.