The Krannert Center takes the audience through the journey of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean.
written by Allison Spillane
August Wilson is a heavy-hitter when it comes to play writing, so I was very interested to see one in person. Almost all of my experience with theater has been contemporary plays, so seeing something rooted in a little more history was exciting. Furthermore, this rendition of Gem of the Ocean featured one of Allen’s beloved RA’s! With all of this expectation, I was surprised with how this show still impressed me. Every aspect of it was so well thought out in a way that made for an astounding cohesive show.
It was coordinated by the Illinois International Student & Scholar and the Student Alumni Ambassadors held at Spurlock Museum.
There were 13 performances and the talents were from all around the world. There were Indians, Chinese, Russians, Americans, and Koreans performing for the Global Talent Show. A large proportion of the performance was towards singing and each one of them sang songs according to their own country. The songs were sung in different languages and the melody and rhyme for each song are so unique to its own culture and country. Some were more upbeat; others were more soothing.
Although the setup is really simple with just one stage light and the acoustic was not fantastic, I really like how the coordinators actually provided this space for all these performers to showcase their talents.
Among all the performances, I really like the Yo-Yo, magic and the final singing performance!
For the yoyo performance, Asher was so fast in his hands as he does many yoyo tricks like loop the loop, walk the dog, around the world, walk the baby and many more tricks that I have never seen before. The crowd was cheering for him every time he did a new spectacular move. I was right at the edge of my seat amazed by his tricks and skills.
Next, was Alejandro Diaz magic performance. He had a whole story incorporated into his magic trick. Each pile from the left to the right was the past, the present, the future and dreams of our lives. He was saying how some people prefer to focus on one of those categories and he did his magic trick changing the first pile into blank cards indicating that we can’t only focus on one.
At the end of the magic trick, he made every card turn from a picture card into a blank card and within a split second all the cards were pictures cards saying that we need all 4 categories in our lives and everyone was so astonished by it!
Lastly, was Marie Joe Noon. She sang I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston. Her voice was so pleasant and wonderful as she sang the verses. When she went to the chorus, everyone was blown away by her vocal range as she hit the high notes of the song. You could feel the emotions as she sang each lyric out and her stage presence was fantastic she really connected the audience just by her singing and her swaying from side to side.
In the end, the one who won the Global Talent Program was Marie Joe Noon! For the rest of the performers, I really admire their courage and passion to stand in front of a huge crowd to showcase their talent.
The stage setup from this performance was phenomenal. When I enter the theatre, the setup was already being displayed for the audience to admire. I myself was very amazed by all the intricate details of the setup.
The rustic wood panels at the side and the long dark wood tiles bring out that warm homely feeling. All the props that were used from the chairs, lamps, windows, doors, drawers, and potteries all aided in bringing the audience back to the past of the 1900s.
also aided in the same way. The gents were wearing tuxedos, vests and a top hat
and the ladies were wearing long printed skirts up to their waist and wearing a
bandana over their head.
The one prop that was very significant was the paper boat. The entire performance was building on that paper boat. It brought everyone on a journey to the unknown, creating such anticipation to the audience of what is gonna happen next.
that I would like to describe will be Caesar. The main villain of the show. He
was a man of his principles which were two things. Family is everything and standing
on what is written on the law.
that whoever abides in the law, is deemed worthy and whoever does not shall be
punishes. With this narrow mindset, Caesar shot Black Mary’s good friend just
because the friend hurt his right leg causing him to limp.
so saturated and consumed by the law that his own conscience was totally gone!
He did not feel any remorse of what he has done. This led to his own sister, Black
Mary telling him straight to his face that she does not know him anymore.
This superb character really taught me that not everything should go by the book but there has to be a balance between abiding of the law and holding on to your conscience.
The City of Bones scene was STUPENDOUS. Even before they step into the scene, they are already in character behind the door, shaking vigorously their wrists and ankles. The energy that they put in every move that they made had so much gust and momentum and as they synchronize the tribe beat with their “bones”. I love the props that they use such as red ribbons to symbolize fire and the wooden sticks to add a stronger sound to the beat. It depicted them to be souls being revived from their skeleton giving an eerie feeling which was exactly what was needed for that scene.
performance really brought me back the past to experience, understand and feel how
it was like in the African American community in the 1900s.
This is my first ever theatre play experience and I must say I am very wow-ed by it! Even though the show was long, it ended off with a huge bang! It was truly a memorable first theatre experience and I wish to attend more theatre plays from thereon.
The scenery and props immediately told me that the setting of the play will be in somebody’s home. To elaborate, the costumes indicated that the time is somewhere in the past. The gents were wearing tux and vests which are really formal, coupled with a hat. The ladies were wearing headpieces and long dresses with lots of prints. The paper boat gave me the impression that the play will be a mystical journey and set the mood and theme to be an exciting one.
If I could choose one character to describe their role in the play, it would be Aunt Ester. She is an important character in the play who holds power as the soul washer. She seems to be an important figure who is well respected by everyone. This could be seen in the way everybody greets her when they enter the house. Everyone was always ready to make sure she is comfortable by washing her feet, settling her down in the sofa. She also instructs Mary to do certain chores, in which she obeys. She plays a huge part in the play and story by assisting Citizen Barlow to travel to the City of Bones to restore the spiritual balance of troubled individuals, especially so since Citizen Barlow caused an innocent death by stealing the can of nails.
The City of Bones scene was SPECTACULAR. A very essential part of the scene was the dancers. I could feel the intensity and their dedication to playing the role well and it fit into the theme of the play so well and brought a strong visual of what souls were to look like. It was a little eerie but that was the point of the dance and their movements. I really enjoyed the props that the dancers were using such as red ribbons and wooden sticks as it brought more dimension to the play.
This play transported myself to a mystical world while showing what the African American community in 1904 was like. I could feel myself being transported with them into the City of Bones and what a ride it was!
This is the first-ever Homecoming talent show, performed by international students. There were 13 performers and they presented the different cultures and their art wonderfully. Through this talent show, I have increased my understanding of the different countries through their selection of songs and performing piece.
Most of the performer chose a song from their country and there was a clear difference in the melody, rhythm and style of the songs. I could also feel their emotions as they sang the songs that reminded them of home. It was truly a touching and memorable moment.
To me, it takes a lot of courage to perform in front of a crowd and no matter the decisions of the judges, I felt that they are all winners. As for relationship with the audience, there is certainly that element for certain performances.
For example, the magic performance by Alejandro Diaz was very interactive. He used the projector as a prop to bring his magic closer to the audience. As for the singers, they used the mic as a prop to bring their voice closer to us.
Overall, it was an exciting experience which showcased many talents, such as yo-yo, beat-boxing, singing, dance and magic. I expected a more formal event performed by professionals, but these people on stage were genuinely just wanting to showcase their culture and talent. There were emotions in the theater and I left the theater with a warm feeling in my heart.