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Insiders Recap: Gem of the Ocean

By A Noise Within
October 16, 2019

Written by Rebecca Wilson

For our second Insiders meeting of the season, we were honored and excited to welcome Staci Mitchell of Cal State LA as our speaker, as well as our very own Veralyn Jones (Aunt Ester) as our guest actor for the evening.

The evening began with an air of excitement as we shuffled into the conference room, plates full of Trader Joe’s windmill cookies and cups filled with wine, and went around to introduce ourselves. When asked to “please raise your hand if this is your first Insiders meeting,” eight eager hands shot into the air, excited to partake in an evening of camaraderie and passionate discussion.

Besides the new energy in the room, perhaps the most exciting part of this evening’s gathering was the lack of screens – no projector, no smartphones, no videos – just pure and engrossing discussion around a table, with people who share a hunger for knowledge.

Staci started off by inviting us to share our own experience with this play – or with August Wilson in general – and why we perhaps feel a personal connection to this text. Our members ranged from “never-read-or-seen” any August Wilson, to one member who had made a point of reading all ten plays in Wilson’s American Century Cycle, and one who had seen all ten plays live! Veralyn jumped in and shared her experience playing Aunt Ester – she noted, “the thing that interested me about this play is it got me thinking about slavery and that time period in a way I hadn’t before – it made me think about my family’s journey. We always think of slavery as being part of the past, but it is still in these characters’ living memories. Even to this day,” she continued, “we are living through the consequences of the original sin of slavery.”

Veralyn’s comments propelled us into a fascinating conversation about the horrors of slavery, and how these horrors affected not only the characters in Gem of the Ocean, but also have continued to affect our current society. We spent a good amount of time in particular dissecting Caesar Wilks and his involvement in the story. Is Caesar a “villain” in this show? This question was met with varied answers – one being that all of these characters are just looking for love and acceptance, and perhaps Caesar found acceptance in a skewed way.

The evening continued with discussions of law – Staci asked the question, “Is there an equal application or protection of the law [in this play, and even in modern times]?” No – we answered – and that is one of the key conflicts this play hinges on, especially when it comes to Caesar and Citizen.

After covering several more topics (from spirituality and religion to ritual and rites of passage) and eating several more cookies, we ended the evening dissecting Citizen’s transformation, particularly his entrance into the play compared to his final moment. The word that permeated the conversation was “truth.” Without looking back at our history and confronting who we’ve wronged, whether it be personally or societally, we are unable to uncover this truth and are therefore unable to redeem ourselves. Only those who face these difficult truths are able to emerge from the City of Bones, free.

Thank you again to Staci and Veralyn for making this evening as special and enthralling as it was!

Interested in signing up for our next session? Email our Education Manager Rebecca Wilson at We hope to see you there!

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