Denzel Washington could become the latest, and greatest, star to act in an August Wilson drama. According to the New York Times, the Academy Award-winning star of "Glory," "Training Day" and others films is being sought for Wilson's Gem of the Ocean, which will play Chicago and Los Angeles in 2003.
Producer Benjamin Mordecai would only tell the Times he was " talking to a lot of people about a lot of things."
If cast, Washington would follow in the footsteps of such past, high profile Wilson actors as Laurence Fishburne, James Earl Jones, Charles S. Dutton, Angela Bassett and Roscoe Lee Browne. Whoopi Goldberg has been mentioned for an upcoming production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.
Casting a marquee name like Washington might prove chancey, however. Lately, Broadway producers have had little luck in keeping film stars interested in stage projects. In the past couple week along, Kim Cattrall, Natasha Richardson and Danny DeVito have dropped out of major New York productions.
The Goodman Theatre will host the premiere of a new August Wilson drama April 18–May 24, 2003. It will then travel to the Mark Taper Forum, playing July 31-Sept. 7, 2003. Other regional stops may follow before the expected Broadway engagement in 2003-04. Gem of the Ocean is the ninth play in Wilson's chronicle of the African-American experience in the 20th century. Marion McClinton, who staged Broadway's King Hedley II and Off-Broadway'sJitney, will again direct.
Gem takes place in the first decade of the century. Press materials describe the plot thusly: "When Citizen Barlow, in spiritual turmoil, arrives at Aunt Ester's house claiming sanctuary from Caesar, the local constable, he sets into motion a series of events that includes a journey to the City of Bones, which leads to startling discoveries and puts him on a course where duty leads to redemption."
The Goodman was one of the many regional stops King Hedley II made before it reached Broadway in 2001. The Chicago house has also seen productions of Jitney, Fences and Seven Guitars. Often, the Goodman is one of the midway stops in a Wilson play's journey from debut to Broadway bow. But in the case of Gem, the company will give audiences its first look at a new Wilson work.