By Chanelle Bell
Daniel Alexander Jones, a professor at Fordham University and a well known artist, is directing the August Wilson play “Gem of the Ocean,” at the Marin County Theatre Jan. 14-Feb.14.
The play follows Citizen Barlow, a young Black man with a terrible secret. When he meets a legendary healer, who is rumored to be able to wash souls, it initiates a series of events that lays bare the tensions within the community that reflect the broader historical tensions for Blacks in the first decade of the 1900s, at a time when the promise of Reconstruction faded for good.
Jones who has had a professional career directing, writing, and performing for over 20 years, jumped at the chance to direct his first August Wilson play when Marin Theatre Company Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis extended the invitation.
Minadakis has taken a pledge to produce all of August Wilson’s 10-play cycle. Each play explores the lives of Black Americans in a different decade of the 20th Century,
Jones believes that “Gem of the Ocean,” a play takes place in 1904, has much to to say about our lives today.
“Any illusions regarding the precarity of Black Americans’ lives in our society, particularly as regards violence from the state, and the profound difficulties of navigating citizenship and embodied concepts of freedom and liberty for Black Americans, have been wholly stripped away,” he said.
The plight of Black America is nothing new and the growing body count of Black men and women who have been killed senselessly is an constant reminder of how little times have changed in the course of 400 years of history.
Jones, like many Black artists before him, creates art that puts a critical lens on the ill treatment of Black Americans. “My goals have been intensified by our current social and political climate. I seek vital, vulnerable and transformative communication. I seek truth and authentic testimony…Artists need to imagine a generative future in this time of darkness,” he said.
“This time of darkness,” of which Jones is speaking, not only refers to the gut wrenching list of victims who have lost their lives because of their skin color, but also for the second year in a row the Oscars have chosen not to recognize the incredible work of Black actors.
Jones says that, “Same equation equal the same results. Change the equation, starting with an honest interrogation of the pursuit of any external accolade as a marker of worth.”
He then poses an important and critical question to the conversation. He says, “How willing are we to see ourselves and one another, and to recognize one another’s work in ways that don’t reinscribe hierarchies, and how willing are we to experience and evaluate work by criteria other than how much it affirms what we know, or how much it may be worth in a market?”
To learn more about Daniel Alexander Jones and his work check out danielalexanderjones.com.
For information about the production of “Gem of the Ocean,” call or call (415) 388-5208, or go to www.marintheatre.org/