Gem of the Ocean: Chuck Smith and Wardell Julius Clark in Conversation

Actor and Director Wardell Julius Clark interviews Chuck Smith, the director of the Goodman Theatre production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. This interview was recorded on February 6, 2022. At the time, Clark was serving as the understudy for the role of Citizen Barlow, originally played by Sharif Atkins.

Clark has since taken over the role of Citizen Barlow from Atkins, performing since February 11th and will continue playing the role of Citizen through closing this Sunday, February 27th, 2022.

Chuck Smith was the dramaturg for the world premiere of Gem of the Ocean in 2003 directed by Marion McClinton. Wardell Julius Clark previously understudied Citizen Barlow and performed in the Court Theatre production directed by Ron OJ Parson in 2015.

Wardell Julius Clark:
So first things first – In 2003 you dramaturg’d the world premiere of Gem of the Ocean?

Chuck Smith:
Yes.

Wardell:
Had you met August before that?

Chuck:
Yeah. I had worked with August, uh, I mean actually worked with him in ‘97 when I [directed] Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom [at the Goodman Theatre]. He came to the preview and uh, you know, we got this long preview [period]. He came to the first preview and stayed…The whole preview period and worked with me. You know, during the day, you know, in the mornings I came up in the morning. And we go, I show him the South Side, you know? Continue reading “Gem of the Ocean: Chuck Smith and Wardell Julius Clark in Conversation”

‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ Vibrates with Joy and Simmering Rage

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at Writer’s Theatre vibrates violently with joy and simmering rage. Inspired by the life of the real-life black, queer, mother of the blues Ma Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett,) August Wilson’s play tells the intimate story of a legend whose star is fading, and along with it, her ability to be seen by the larger world. Continue reading “‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ Vibrates with Joy and Simmering Rage”

Court Theatre’s ‘Radio Golf’ Rings True Today

It’s 1997 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh at Court Theatre and Harmond Wilks (Allen Gilmore) is running for Mayor. Radio Golf transforms the Court Theatre  into an authentic depiction of a small office and its’ surroundings. The detail remains strong from the graffiti on the billboards to the discoloration in the ceilings. This set makes me feel at home in a place I’ve never visited, the raw attention to detail really captures the true essence of places we hear about but never see, such as the parking lot or infamous Aunt Ester’s home. Continue reading “Court Theatre’s ‘Radio Golf’ Rings True Today”