Theatre ucf, august wilson, gem of the ocean


In 2004, August Wilson completed Gem of the Ocean, the first play in his Pittsburgh Cycle. Seven years later, the University of Central Florida’s production of Gem of the Ocean went against what most consider traditional staging. With a Russian born director and a mostly white production team, playing to a predominately white audience, what are the challenges of accurately transforming the text to the stage, while still providing a truthful telling of a story? The following is a case study based on the idea of “active dramaturgy” or, more specifically, cultivating an atmosphere within the production that relies on critical thinking and original analytical thought to create an environment where creativity drives the work of the production. This approach is discussed by dramaturg Lenora Inez Brown in her book The Art of Active Dramaturgy. As the first play within the Pittsburgh Cycle, Gem of the Ocean represents the life of African Americans during the first decade of the twentieth century; nine more plays, respectively, represent each of the following decades. Wilson’s work closely followed the prescription adapted by African American W.E.B. Du Bois who called for theatre “by us, for us, near us, and about us” (Herrington 132). The fact that I am a white American troubles the state of the accepted norms for a Wilson theatre production. My ability to perform as a dramaturg is based on my capacity to inform and educate through whatever means necessary, not the color of my skin. Brown posits that an active dramaturg is one that “seeks ways to articulate heady ideas into active language--that is, language that a performer can easily use to shape an acting choice or a designer, a design choice” iii (xii). None of this is based on skin color, race, or religion; therefore, it was my objective as the dramaturg to stress the importance of the shared story within the play that could relate to anyone of any background. Throughout the course of this production, my major challenge as a dramaturg was to maintain the accuracy of African American representation, while working with the nontraditional, multiracial production team, on the race specific work of August Wilson. In this thesis, I explore the application of active dramaturgy on the production process


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Graduation Date





Listengarten, Julia


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program









Release Date

May 2013

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic, Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities