I create performances that engage, provoke, and expand the limits of self-expression. I hold myself to a rigorous aesthetic process that equally values emotional intuition, intellectual discourse, and the intersection of national and cultural identities, and I strive to incite dialogue by acknowledging and implicating the audience.
Niegel Smith is a Bessie award winning theater director and performance artist. He is the Artistic Director of NYC’s Obie-Award winning theater, The Flea; Associate Artistic Director of Elastic City; and ringleader of Willing Participant (www.willingparticipant.org) an artistic activist organization that whips up urgent poetic responses to crazy shit that happens.
His theater work has been produced by The Alley, Classical Theatre of Harlem, The Flea Theater, HERE Arts Center, Hip Hop Theatre Festival, The Invisible Dog, Luna Stage, Magic Theatre, Mixed Blood, New York Fringe Festival, New York Live Arts, Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, Playwrights Horizons, Pomegranate Arts, The Public Theater, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Summer Play Festival, Todd Theatre and Under the Radar, and his participatory performances have been produced by Abrons Arts Center, American Realness, Dartmouth College, Elastic City, The Invisible Dog, Jack, The New Museum, Prelude Festival, PS 122, the Van Alen Institute and Visual AIDS. He often collaborates with playwright/performer Taylor Mac and with artist Todd Shalom. Smith was co-director of the critically acclaimed ‘A 24-Decade History of Popular Music’, winner of the Kennedy Prize in Drama, the Edwin Booth Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
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.
A graduate of Dartmouth College, Smith has received residencies, grants and/or fellowships from Brooklyn Arts Council, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Sundance Theatre Lab, Theater Communications Group, Tucker Foundation, Van Lier Fund and VoxFest. 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.