Do not miss the unique opportunity to hear the words of August Wilson’s Gem of Ocean inside the Mason Gallery with Whitfield Lovell: Deep River. Barbara Colaciello is directing this performance and filled us in on how the idea for this unconventional reading came about.
CUMMER MUSEUM: How did you come up with the concept for this performance?
BARBARA COLACIELLO: It just happened organically. In May I attended the talk between Whitfield Lovell and Hope McMath. Afterwards, as I entered the site-specific exhibit in the Deep River part of the exhibition, with the walls of moving water and the objects placed in the dirt, I got the chills. I could hear August Wilson’s words from Gem of the Ocean. Monologues about passage, rope, iron, freedom –the visual elements of the room mirrored in the script. I had directed Gem for Players by the Sea in 2010 and thought, this is the setting for the City of Bones where Citizen, one of the characters in the piece, is taken to get his soul washed. It’s described as “…a mystical spiritual city below the surface of the water where black souls have come to rest,” by theater critic Harry Elam. Upon leaving the exhibit I shared my response with Hope and Whitfield and said that it would be amazing to have audiences hear Wilsons’ words within that environment. Literally the next day Hope McMath reached out to me and said that Whitfield was intrigued by the idea and how could we make it happen. We secured the necessary rights from Samuel French, got actors on board and bam, it went on the schedule.
CM: Choosing the right actors to play these roles is very important. Can you tell us a little bit about your cast?
BC: The cast consists of talented multi-faced artists that we are blessed to have in the Jacksonville community. David Girard, Antoinette Johnson, Noble Lee Lester and Seth Langner were in the original cast. Ebony Payne, a slam poet, who was cast but had a scheduling conflict back then, jumped at the chance to play Black Mary. The actors were visibly moved by the exhibit and wanted to be a part of bringing the synergy between the two artists, Whitfield and Wilson, to life. Of course, as a staged reading we are rediscovering how to tell the story.
CM: Whitfield Lovell: Deep River has been a very touching and socially relevant show for people in our community. Could you share any connections you have personally made to this exhibition?
BC: The relevance of the installation in the NOW profoundly hits you. It makes you cry and I have watched everyone I brought into the space cry. The way that Lovell honors the past depicting the journey of separation, aloneness, the daily aggression endured rendered in a dignified poetic way, it is heartbreaking. Whitfield’s ritual of finding photographs, objects and wood both personal and found, that carry history and using them in his installations resounds within me.
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“Gem of the Ocean” is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC.