Niegel Smith is a theater director and performance artist 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, the Invisible Dog, Magic Theatre, New York Fringe Festival, New York Live Arts, Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, The Public Theater, Summer Play Festival, Todd Theatre and Under the Radar, and his walks have been produced by Abrons Arts Center, American Realness, Dartmouth College, Elastic City, Jack, the New Museum, Prelude Festival, PS 122, the Van Alen Institute, and Visual AIDS. He often collaborates with artist Todd Shalom. Together, they conceive and stage interactive performances in public and private environments. He is a ringleader of Willing Participant (www.willingparticipant.org) an artistic activist organization that whips up urgent poetic responses to crazy shit that happens.
Smith was the associate director of the Tony Award winning musical FELA! — restaging that production in London, Lagos, and its world tour; he also 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. He is a 35th Anniversary Artist-in-Residence at Second Stage Theatre and the Associate Artistic Director of Elastic City.
A graduate of Dartmouth College, Smith has received grants and fellowships from Brooklyn Arts Council, Theater Communications Group, Tucker Foundation, and the Van Lier Fund. 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 (As of 2/2/15)
A crackling production of a remarkable, audacious, uproarious black comedy with a daring combination of realism and madcap absurdity.
—Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
A beautiful trinity of Nielsen’s pained and profound performance, Mac’s script, and Smith’s direction.
A behind-the-scenes look at the transformation of Kristine Nielsen into the ‘Hir’ artwork. With the fabulous makeup stylings of Darrell Thorne, flawless photography of Zack DeZon, and Kristine's charisma, we had a truly magical day bringing this artwork to life.
Taylor Mac: I was an artist, I realized, first, and the way that I thought about the world was different than the way other kids or people thought about the world. I was constantly the person that was pointing out something that was just slightly different than everybody else. It may have been that we were Christian Scientists, so there was this big, huge thing in my family where we were from a weird religion.
I’m a lover and maker of the alternative, underground, and radical movements, and basically every work I’ve made is somehow rooted in a subculture. Hir, however, is a new kind of play for me as it’s dealing with the mainstream; rather, the remnants of the former body politic and the rise of a new progressive body politic.
Warning to all Taylor Mac fans: Taylor does not appear in this play. Second warning: when the lights come up and the play begins to unfold before you, by all appearances it is as if we are witnessing a classically structured, fourth wall, living room family play. It even has a couch!
In the opening moments of the show, an actress who introduces herself as “Time,” stuffed into a scrappy-glamorous, beautifully ornate hourglass dress, her head trapped inside a cuckoo clock, rails against the play we’re about to see: a love story between Bride and Groom that culminates in a wedding. “INSTITUTIONALIZED NARRATIVE!” Time cries, “This is not something to enjoy. It is ugly. Plastic. Is a plastic deck chair fun? No! It is tacky! This is the most base, poorly crafted, pulled together at the last minute, ready for mass consumption, demonstrative, manipulative, repetitive, oversexed, histrionic, reductive piece of crap known to mankind… Now I, we, are forced to play stock characters.”
The Oxford English Dictionary added about 500 new words in its latest quarterly update, including such splendid neologisms as jeggings, kettlebell, photobomb, and twerk. These additions serve as a reminder that language is a tool and a living thing, constantly evolving to reflect the changing world it describes.