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”

Black Women Forgotten By History Soar in “Flyin’ West”

Opening with the calming sound of wind sweeping across the plains, Flyin’ West is pure Americana, evoking the broad grandeur of big skies and big hearts full of freedom. It is 1898, and a chosen family of black women have settled in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas. American history in most classroom settings rarely acknowledges the existence of African-Americans outside of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, yet the Backstage Guide provided by American Blues Theatre in conjunction with the production, does a wonderful job of correcting this history of erasure. Continue reading “Black Women Forgotten By History Soar in “Flyin’ West””