As a poet and playwright, Ayodele Nzinga has been a force in the arts in Oakland and beyond for over four decades. This month, she’s taken on the honorable task of scheduling the Black Arts Movement Business District Festival: over 28 events during the 28 days of Black History Month. It’s all a part of an effort to give people an opportunity to enjoy the thriving arts community that’s been in Oakland for years.
This weekend, Nzinga’s theatre troupe, the Lower Bottom Playaz, is set for their final run of August Wilson’s Gem of The Ocean. The play, based in 1904 Pittsburgh, Penn., is one of 10 plays in Wilson’s famed Century Cycle, a series of shows set in each decade of the 20th century, written by the man regarded as America’s Shakespeare.
The Lower Bottom Playaz, a troupe that’s performed in Oakland since the early 2000s, characterizes itself as the only theatre group in town to present each of the 10 plays in Wilson’s Century Cycle. Gem of the Ocean is the first in the cycle, but was the penultimate play written by Wilson, who passed in 2005, and it’s the centerpiece of the 28 days of programming for Black History Month.