Theatre UCF presents August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean at the University of Central Florida Black Box theatre.

The play is the first installment of Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, which consists of ten plays that chronicle the African-American experience in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in the 1900s. The Cycle includes the Pulitzer Prize-winning plays Fences and The Piano Lesson. The Piano Lesson will be presented locally by Seminole State College in February.

In Gem of the Ocean, newly freed slaves find themselves at the home of Aunt Ester, a 285-year-old former slave and renowned “soul-cleanser.” Citizen Barlow comes to Aunt Ester seeking to be absolved of a crime that has thrust the Pittsburgh community into riots. With the help of some accomplices, Aunt Ester launches Citizen on a journey aboard the legendary slave ship, Gem of the Ocean, to the City of Bones, where Citizen is plunged into his ancestors’ suffering and the weight of his wrongs.

Gem of the Ocean is wonderfully rich with the intricate layers of the African American pre- and post-slavery experience,” said Be Boyd, a UCF associate professor who is performing the role of Aunt Ester. “The spirituality and humanity of this piece are palpable. It is one of the last two plays August Wilson wrote before his death; he knew his time was not long for this earth when he wrote this beautiful story. This play is a ‘spiritual imprint’ and one of the greatest gifts he left us.”

Director Julia Listengarten explained that the play is not short—it runs two and a half hours—but that the story needs to unravel and is beautiful in its construction.

Gem of the Ocean infuses realism with poetry, concrete detail with symbolism, humor with tragedy, realistic dialogue with ritual, cultural specificity with universality and timelessness,” said Listengarten.

During Gem of the Ocean’s 2004-05 run on Broadway, the play received five Tony nominations and The New York Times called the play “a swelling battle hymn of transporting beauty. Theatergoers who have followed August Wilson’s career will find in Gem a touchstone for everything else he has written.”

Theatre UCF is located on the UCF campus near the intersection of University Blvd. and Alafaya Trail in East Orlando. The show runs from Nov. 17 -20 and Dec. 1-4 on Thursdays-Sundays, and shows begin at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays.

To purchase tickets or for ticket information call the box office at 407-823-1500. Tickets are $17.00 for adults, $15.00 for seniors over 55 and $10.00 for students, with group rates available.It is strongly recommended to purchase tickets in advance, available through the Theatre UCF box office. UCF offers accommodations to make the theatre more accessible to patrons with disabilities—for assistance, please call the box office in advance.