Now at Pittsburgh Playwrights

Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company in association with August Wilson House present


By August Wilson
Directed by Andrea Frye
Preview August 23rd
Opens Saturday August 24th
New dates added! Through Sept. 22nd
Presented outdoors at 1839 Wylie Ave. in Pittsburgh’s Hill District

“Aunt Ester has come home….a searing, solid production”
– Sharon Eberson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean features the potent power of Aunt Ester, Wilson’s gatekeeper to spiritual matters, and the hearts of the Hill residents she loves. When Aunt Ester opens her home at 1839 Wylie Avenue to the troubled Citizen Barlow, a recent migrant from the rural South, a battle ensues not only within Citizen, who begs Aunt Ester to “wash his soul,” but also between Citizen and Caesar Wilks, a stern man of the law, threatened by Citizen’s independence and defiance of his authority. As Solly Two Kings becomes a mentor for Citizen and a model of a man, bound by nothing but freedom, Citizen must choose a past steeped in fear, or a future made glorious with destiny and purpose.

“It feels that Ester could, if she wanted, snap her fingers and detach the room from its soil and send it sailing into the sky…fantastic, unbelievable, and affecting.”
– Alex Gordon, City Paper

We will perform August Wilson’s masterwork outdoors at the actual location given in the play for 285-year-old Aunt Ester’s home, 1839 Wylie Avenue.

“Compelling and dramatically rewarding”
– Ted Hoover, Pittsburgh Current

“There is something otherworldly and enchanting in seeing Wilson’s fictional house, with its historically-rich characters and conflicts, conjured into existence on the very site he dreamed it.”
– W. Arons, Pittsburgh Tatler

Reviews: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, City Paper, Pittsburgh Current, Pittsburgh in the Round, Pittsburgh Tatler, Moundsville blog

Read the program book (PDF)

Previews: Post-Gazette, Post-Gazette (info on the schedule change), Pittsburgh Current, Post-Gazette, Audio cast interview on WRCT’s Ebony Spectrum

“Vivid and memorable”
– Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh in the Round

Buy Tickets


Chrystal Bates as Aunt Ester
Jonathan Berry as Citizen
Kevin Brown as Solly Two Kings
Les Howard as Eli
Wali Jamal as Caesar
Marcus Muzopappa as Selig
Candace Walker as Black Mary

Production Photos (click for more)


Meet our all-woman production and design crew!

Director Andrea Frye
Producer Ashley Southers
Stage Manager Shanita Bivins
Music Kathryn Bostic
Sound Design Angela Baughman
Lighting Design Latrice Lovett
Scenic Design/TD Diane Melchitzky
Costume Designer Kim Brown
Hair and Makeup Designer Cheryl El-Walker
Master Electrician Madeleine Steineck
Fight Director Lisa Ann Goldsmith

Building The Set  (click for more)

Help Us Meet the Challenge!

When we took on the challenge of presenting Gem of the Ocean at the actual street address August Wilson gave in his play, we had no idea how difficult a site it would turn out to be!

Creating a stage on a sloping grass field had already made this the most complex stage construction our theatre company had ever attempted. But when we tried to anchor the supports for the stage, we found brick and concrete under the grass and earth.

We think these may be the remains of St. Brigid’s, a church demolished in the 1960s which August Wilson actually attended as a child! This unexpected additional link to Mr. Wilson’s history inspired us. But it also delayed our stage construction, and added considerable unbudgeted expenses, forcing us to rapidly modify our construction plans.

Ticket prices are not enough to cover the cost of this production. Now we need your help. Please donate what you can. Thank you!

An Outdoor Production

This production is outside. Please bring suitable clothing and gear to handle a brief light rain or lower evening temperatures.

If the forecast is bad, we may need to cancel a performance. In that case, we’ll send out an email to all ticketed patrons for that evening by 5:30 PM. Affected patrons may switch to any other performance, or receive a full refund.

If a storm forces us to cancel mid-performance, patrons may return to any other performance, or receive a full refund.

We also permit patrons to switch to a different performance with available seats at any time, and only pay the difference in ticket price (if any).

Watch the cast in a brief scene on Pittsburgh Today Live

Next From Pittsburgh Playwrights


Written and Performed
By LeLand Gantt
Directorial Consultant Estelle Parsons

One night only: November 15th 2019
Presented at the August Wilson Center

Join us for one night only as we present LeLand Gantt’s acclaimed solo show Rhapsody in Black at the August Wilson Center, 980 Liberty Avenue.

Review: Huffington Post

Buy Tickets


Help Us Grow

miss-julie-boysPittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company is committed to developing and showcasing the works of local playwrights; from accomplished masters like August Wilson and George S. Kaufman to promising new talents.

Donate Now

Our productions are also supported by:

Funder logos


Gem of the Ocean artwork by Darnell Chambers.
Production photos by J.L. Martello/ 18ricco.
Set construction photos by Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre.

*Appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association