As a Fraternity brother, as a casting director, as a member of Christian churches and exclusively gay organizations, as an enfranchised citizen of the US, as a part of any exclusive group, artist Niegel Smith has had many opportunities to consider the ways in which social, political and religious organizations both support and impede a broad and inclusive view of self and others.
On HAZE, he invites participants to join in poetic rituals (songs, gestures, oaths and drinks) some old, some brand new, in an attempt to form, gain access to and critique exclusive communities. We will open our borders to some, close them off to others. But will we survive if we do? Will we thrive if we do? Let’s walk and see.
Niegel Smith is a performance artist and theater director who sculpts social spaces into unique communal environments where we make new rituals, excavate our pasts and imagine future narratives. His theater work has been produced by Classical Theatre of Harlem, HERE Arts Center, Hip Hop Theatre Festival, Luna Stage, Magic Theatre, New York Fringe Festival, Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, The Public Theater, and Summer Play Festival and his participatory walks have been produced by Elastic City, American Realness, Brooklyn Museum, New Museum, the Prelude Festival, Abrons Arts Center, Visual AIDS, the Van Alen Institute and PS 122. He often collaborates with artist Todd Shalom. Together, they conceive and stage interactive performances in public and private environments. He is also a ringleader of Willing Participant (www.willingparticipant.org) an artistic activist organization that whips up urgent poetic responses to crazy shit that happens, and in 2014 he will direct the world-premiere production of J. Julian Christopher’s Locusts Have No Kings at INTAR Theatre.
Smith was the associate director of the Tony Award winning musical FELA!- restaging that production in London, Lagos and its world tour, assistant directed the off-broadway production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and both the broadway and off-broadway productions of Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change. He has worked on the artistic staffs of The Public Theater, Trinity Repertory Company and Providence Black Rep and is a 35th Anniversary Artist-in-Residence at Second Stage Theatre, and has been a guest artist at Dartmouth College, Fordham University, The Juilliard School, NYU Tisch School of the Arts and The University of Rochester.
Smith, a graduate of Dartmouth College, has received grants and fellowships from Theater Communications Group, the Van Lier Fund and the Tucker Foundation. Before surviving high school in Detroit, he grew up in the North Carolina piedmont, fishing with his dad, shopping with his mom and inventing tall-tale fantasies with his two younger brothers. www.niegelsmith.com
What is a walk?
Through a walk, an artist invites her audience to become active participants in an ongoing poetic exchange with the places we live in and visit. Walks are participatory and may rely on sensory-based techniques, the creation of new folk rituals and/or other artist-derived exercises to explore one’s self, the group and a given space.
Walks are intimate performances by design. The artist may give you specific instructions–don’t worry, you don’t have to say yes. For example, there are moments in certain walks where you will be asked to be silent. You will not be asked to do anything that compromises your safety.
Examples of walks:
Total Detroit led by Niegel Smith: https://vimeo.com/31888904
Spread co-led by Niegel Smith: https://vimeo.com/72552097
© 2014 Vox Theater Company