A Year with August

Explore the complete works of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson with Aurora Theatre Company's Associate Artistic Director Dawn Monique Williams over the course of this monthly book club. Continuing with Joe Turner's Come and Gone, the second play chronologically, members will have the opportunity to engage in a deep dive of Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle, a series of ten plays, each of which paint a portrait of Black life in America in a different decade of the twentieth century. Often referred to as the Century Cycle, Wilson's work exalts "the poetry in the everyday language of black America" and is among the most celebrated plays of the modern American canon. Unless otherwise specified, all meetings of this book club will be held virtually in a webinar format, where members can sign in from anywhere in the world to see the conversation. Be sure to register early to submit questions or participate live in the discussion. Dates and discussion material are as follows, and we encourage the support of local bookstores when purchasing plays. Bookshop.orgIndiebound.org, and Marcus Books, in Oakland, California are all wonderful resources.


September 21, 2020 | Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Synopsis: Set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District at the Hollys' boarding house in 1911, a mysterious stranger, Herald Loomis, arrives in search of his wife. Each resident of the boarding house is reconciling a past and legacy of enslavement with the budding development of urban community. The host of characters Loomis encounters include the proprietors of the boarding home, an eccentric conjure man whose practice is firmly rooted in African traditions, and a young musician man up from the South. This drama, by the author of The Piano LessonSeven Guitars, and Fences, is an installment in Wilson’s Century Cycle chronicling Black life in each decade of the 20th century.


August 31, 2020 | Gem Of The Ocean

Synopsis: August Wilson’s Century Cycle (a series of ten plays each set in a different decade) begins with Gem of the Ocean, which takes place in 1904 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where most of the cycle’s plays are set). Gem of the Ocean unfolds in the home of Aunt Ester, the well-known 285-year-old matriarch whose home has become a sanctuary for the troubled and lost. Onto the scene walks Citizen Barlow, a man who has fled from Alabama in search of renewed life. Citizen has come to Aunt Ester’s because of the tales he has heard of her soul-cleansing powers. Aunt Ester guides him and the other members, old and new, of her household, through a spiritual journey of redemption and self-discovery. When an incident in town leaves the community devastated by the loss of one of their leaders, Citizen steps up to continue the legacy of leading the enslaved toward freedom.

Gem of the Ocean  Plot & Characters

Virtual Book Club Dates 
7 PM Pacific Standard Time

    • August 31 | Gem of the Ocean
    • September 21 | Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
    • October 12 | Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
    • November 9 | The Piano Lesson
    • December 14 | Seven Guitars
    • January 11 | Fences
    • February 8 | Two Trains Running
    • March 8 | Jitney
    • April 12 | King Hedley II
    • May 10 | Radio Golf
    • June 14 | The Ground on Which I Stand
    • July 12 | TBD


Dawn Monique Williams, Associate Artistic Director, joined the Aurora team in August 2019. A native of Oakland, CA, Dawn was previously the Artistic Associate at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where she directed Merry Wives of Windsor in 2017. Her recent directing credits include Aurora’s Bull in a China ShopEarthrise at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, TiJean and His BrothersWomen on the Verge of a Nervous BreakdownThe Secretaries (Willamette Week’s Top 10 Portland Theatre Productions of 2018), Romeo & Juliet, August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, and Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Stark. She’s directed a range of plays including the English language premiere of Gracia Morales’ NN12OthelloTwelfth NightIn the BloodSteel MagnoliasChildren of EdenThe 25th Annual Spelling BeeLittle Shop of HorrorsBurial at ThebesMedeaAntigone Project, and La Ronde; international directing credits include Edinburgh Festival Fringe productions of Scapin the CheatAnna Bella Eema, and The Tempest. Dawn was a 2016 Princess Grace Theatre Fellowship recipient, was awarded a TCG Leadership U residency grant, funded by the Mellon Foundation, and was a former Killian Directing Fellow at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is an alum of the Drama League Directors Project and holds an MA in Dramatic Literature and an MFA in Directing. Dawn is a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.SDC.


August Wilson  

August Wilson was an award-winning American playwright best known for his play, Fences, which won the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. In 2016, Fences was made into a film starring Denzel Washington who also served as the film’s director. For his series of ten plays, The Pittsburgh Cycle, which depicts different aspects of the African-American experience in the U.S., Wilson received two Pulitzer Prizes for drama. In all, over the course of his career, Wilson amassed numerous other awards, including a Whiting Award, a Literary Lion Award from the New York Public Library, a Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Award, the American Theatre Critics’ Association Award, the U.S. National Humanities Medal, an Olivier Award, and the Outer Critics Circle Award. In 2005, fourteen days after his death, New York City’s Virginia Theatre was renamed the August Wilson Theatre, becoming the first Broadway Theatre to bear the name of an African-American. In 2006, Wilson was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. (Source: The Montgomery Fellows Program)