"Rent" Star Thoms Joins Cast of Kennedy Center's Gem of the Ocean

News   "Rent" Star Thoms Joins Cast of Kennedy Center's Gem of the Ocean Tracie Thoms, who played Joanne in the film of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Rent, is the final addition to the impressive list of artists who will take part in August Wilson's 20th Century, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' celebration of the work of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wilson.
Tracie Thoms
Tracie Thoms Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Thoms will play Black Mary in the Kennedy Center staging of Gem of the Ocean. Directed by Kenny Leon, the Wilson play, which is set in the 1900s, will also feature the previously announced James A. Williams as Eli, John Earl Jelks as Citizen Barlow, Michele Shay as Aunt Ester, Raynor Scheine as Rutherford Selig, Anthony Chisholm as Solly Two Kings and Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Caesar.

Tracie Thoms made her Broadway debut in Drowning Crow. Off-Broadway she was seen in The Exonerated and Up Against the Wind, and her regional credits include Joe Turner's Come and Gone, A Raisin in the Sun, The Oedipus Plays and Hair, earning a Helen Hayes nomination for her work in the latter. Thoms' screen credits include "Rent," "Brother to Brother," "As If," "Porn 'N Chicken," "The Shield" and the Fox series "Wonderfalls."

As previously reported, Wilson's ten-play cycle, which chronicles the African-American experience in the 20th century, will be offered in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theatre. August Wilson's 20th Century will play the D.C. venue March 4-April 6. Kenny Leon is the artistic director for the project with Todd Kreidler as associate artistic director.

The creative team for the mammoth undertaking includes David Gallo (sets), Reggie Ray (costumes), Allen Lee Hughes (lighting) and Dwight Andrews (music supervision).

Casting and directors for each of the ten staged readings follow: Directed by Kenny Leon, Gem of the Ocean (set in the 1900s) will feature James A. Williams as Eli, John Erl Jelks as Citizen Barlow, Michele Shay as Aunt Ester, Raynor Scheine as Rutherford Selig, Anthony Chisholm as Solly Two Kings, Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Caesar and Tracie Thoms as Black Mary.

Directed by Todd Kreidler, Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1910s) will feature Eugene Lee as Seth Holly, LaTanya Richardson Jackson as Bertha Holly, Keith David as Bynum Walker, Raynor Scheine as Rutherford Selig, Montae Russell as Jeremy Furlow, Russell Hornsby as Herald Loomis, Dominique Ross as Zonia Loomis, Cherise Boothe as Mattie Campbell, Terrance Thomas as Reuben Mercer, Michole Briana White as Molly Cunningham and Rosalyn Coleman as Martha Pentecost.

Lou Bellamy will direct Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1920s), which will feature Raynor Scheine as Sturdyvant, Jerry Whiddon as Irvin, Harry Lennix as Cutler, Roger Robinson as Toledo, James A. Williams as Slow Drag, Anthony Mackie as Levee, Ebony Jo-Ann as Ma Rainey, Jeff Allin as Policeman, Rosalyn Coleman as Dussie Mae and Eric Berryman as Sylvester.

The Piano Lesson (1930s), with direction by Kenny Leon, will feature Bill Nunn as Doaker, Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Boy Willie, Jason Dirden as Lymon, Heather Alicia Simms as Berniece, Alexandra Brooke Perrin as Maretha, Afemo Omilami as Avery, Stephen McKinley Henderson as Wining Boy and Cherise Boothe as Grace.

The cast of Seven Guitars (1940s), under the direction of Derrick Sanders, will include LaTanya Richardson Jackson as Louise, Russell Hornsby as Canewell, Harry Lennix as Red Carter, Vanessa Bell Calloway as Vera, Afemo Omilami as Hedley, Keith David as Floyd Barton and Crystal Fox as Ruby.

Fences (1950s) will star Louis Gossett, Jr. as Troy Maxson, Bill Nunn as Jim Bono, Tamara Tunie as Rose, Montae Russell as Lyons, Hassan El-Amin as Gabriel, Anthony Mackie as Cory and Autumn Malhotra as Raynell. Kenny Leon directs.

The Israel Hicks-directed Two Trains Running (1960s) will feature Glynn Turman as Memphis, Russell Hornsby as Wolf, Michole Briana White as Risa, Stephen McKinley Henderson as Holloway, John Earl Jelks as Sterling, Hassan El-Amin as Hambone as Eugene Lee as West.

Jitney (1970s), directed by Gordon Davidson, will include Anthony Mackie as Youngblood, John Beasley as Turnbo, Anthony Chisolm as Fielding, Eugene Lee as Doub, Afemo Omilami as Shealy, Montae Russell as Philmore, Paul Butler as Becker, Roslyn Ruff as Rena and Hassan El-Amin as Booster.

The King Hedley II (1980s) company, directed by Derrick Sanders, will feature Russell Hornsby as King Hedley II, Lynda Gravátt as Ruby, John Earl Jelks as Mister, Stephen MicKinley Henderson as Elmore, Heather Alicia Simms as Tonya and James A. Williams as Stool Pigeon.

Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the Radio Golf (1990s) company will comprise Harry Lennix as Harmond Wilks, Michole Briana White as Mame Wilks, James A. Williams as Roosevelt Hicks, John Earl Jelks as Sterling Johnson and Anthony Chisholm as Elder Joseph Barlow.

August Wilson (April 27, 1945-Oct. 2, 2005) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of African Americans, decade-by-decade, over the course of the 20th century. Wilson's plays have been produced at regional theatres across the country and all over the world, as well as on Broadway. In 2003, Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned. Wilson's works garnered many awards, including Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987); and for The Piano Lesson (1990); a Tony Award for Fences; Great Britain's Olivier Award for Jitney; as well as seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and Jitney.

For more information visit www.kennedy-center.org.

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