Sep 25 – Oct 29, 2017 (The Flea Theater, New York)
“Now what you hear is not a test/I’m rapping to the beat!”
Gordon wants to learn how to rap, thinking it will gain him respect, admiration, and the attention of a beautiful woman. What he doesn’t know is that his journey to learn how to rhyme will take him not just deeper into Hip Hop, but deeper into his legacy and his purpose. Based on true events, NSangou Njikam leads us on a lyrical voyage to discover what it really takes to freestyle.
We take to the road (and air) to bring this radical fairy realness ritual across continents and oceans.
A 24-hour music theater work about how communities are built as a result of being torn apart. Consisting of over 246 songs–some original and many pre-existing popular songs (popular in the US from 1776 to the present day)–as well as over thirteen hours of original text, the work is a deconstruction, reimagining, reframing, and reenactment of 240 years of US history.
Hailed as a Ring Cycle for the 21st century, A 24-Decade History will be seen outside the US for the first time in Melbourne. Part celebration and part exorcism, it’s a no-holds-barred extravaganza of music, history, performance and art.
“Now what you hear is not a test/I’m rapping to the beat!” Gordon wants to learn how to rap, thinking it will gain him respect, admiration, and the attention of a beautiful woman. What he doesn’t know is that his journey to learn how to rhyme will take him not just deeper into Hip Hop, but deeper into his legacy and his purpose. Based on true events, NSangou Njikam leads us on a lyrical ride to discover what it really takes to freestyle. Directed by Niegel Smith, Artistic Director of New York’s Flea Theater.
“Under director Niegel Smith’s guiding hand, the characters and scenes slip easily into flashbacks, drug- induced dream sequences and spiritual epiphanies where hip hop terms like Flow incarnate into goddess-like creatures. The show is also just plain funny throughout.”
– Tarra Gaines, CultureMap – Houston
“Director Niegel Smith shoots these actors out of a cannon and expertly gives them plenty of room to fill up the space with big personality.”
– Jessica Goldman & Brandon Caldwell, Houston Press
Taylor Mac’s glittering performance art concerts chart a (highly) subjective history of popular music and activism in America from the nation’s founding in 1776 to the present day. Created with a bevy of collaborators, including music director / arranger Matt Ray, co-director Niegel Smith, 2015 MacArthur Fellow Mimi Lien, lighting designer John Torres, and longtime fellow traveler and costume provocateur Machine Dazzle, this highly anticipated World Premiere will be the first time Taylor Mac performs the complete 24-decade history in its entirety.
“Taylor Mac’s 24-Hour Concert Was One of the Great Experiences of My Life. I’ve slept on it, and I’m sure. “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music” is sublime.”
– Wesley Morris, The New York Times
Somewhere in the suburbs, Isaac has returned from the wars to help take care of his ailing father, only to discover a household in revolt. The insurgent: his mom. Liberated from an oppressive marriage, with Isaac’s newly out transgender sibling as her ally, she’s on a crusade to dismantle the patriarchy. But in Taylor Mac’s sly, subversive comedy, annihilating the past doesn’t always free you from it.
“Directed by Niegel Smith with a daring combination of realism and madcap absurdity, “Hir” sometimes recalls the better works of David Rabe, Sam Shepard and Christopher Durang.
But Mr. Mac has his own gloriously skewed vision of the toxins fouling the American family from within, and in its avowedly loopy way “Hir” reflects current concerns about the decline of the middle class, as well as the trauma war veterans endure.”
– Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
“A beautiful trinity of Nielsen’s pained and profound performance, Mac’s script, and Smith’s direction.”
– Hilton Als, The New Yorker
Obie Award winning drag icon, queer performance artist, and playwright, Taylor Mac has penned a hilarious and unsettling comedy that is a deconstructed family drama put through a commedia wringer in a style he coins Absurd Realism. It is simultaneously a farcical and disarming satire, a discourse on power, and a blistering critique of “troglodyte fascist hetero-normative” culture.
Isaac returns home from picking up the dismembered remains of his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan, only to find that his home has likewise been blown asunder. His house is a mess, his formerly macho father has suffered a stroke, his mother (played by Sally Wingert, Star Tribune 2013 Artist of the Year) runs the disintegrating household with tyrannical glee, and his sister is now his transgender sibling, intent on subverting traditional gender-centric paradigms and linguistic forms–replacing him and her with the play’s eponymous pronoun ‘hir’.
“Taylor Mac’s play is one of the most daring I’ve come across, and this Niegel Smith-directed production hits all its weird notes with a disturbing clarity that makes the experience bracing, nothing less than thrilling. The effect is near-perfect.
Hir is a show that will make your mind rattle like a popcorn popper, and your heart lurch with shades of the American experience and the sense of pressures having built to bursting across the suburbs both literal and figurative. It’s also, easily, one of the best shows I’ve seen in Twin Cities theater over the past half decade.”
– Quinton Skinner, MN Monthly
In Suzan-Lori Parks’ highly theatrical, historical drama,Venus, the “Venus Hottentot,” a young Black woman in 1810 South Africa, is whisked away to England under false pretenses and sold to a freak show. After achieving great success for her employers, she attempts to make it on her own, but love and economics collide when she becomes the mistress of a white doctor. Unforgiving, humorous and tragic, Parks deftly blends theater of the absurd and romantic realism to question the perceived value of a black woman’s body in a white world.
Set in early 90s New York City, Oscar Nominee (The Motorcycle Diaries) José Rivera’s powerful and poetic Marisol plunges audiences into the story of a young Latina woman forced to navigate a world left in disarray when her guardian angel leaves her to fight a battle of biblical proportion. In the magic realism style of his mentor Gabriel García Márquez, Rivera creates an urban fantasy, filled with humor and pathos, urging society to recover our long-lost compassion and to wrest our world from the brink of destruction.
“Rivera’s voice is distinctive, and the play is at once brutal and poetic, fantastical and resonant of truth. At Luna Stage in West Orange, where it currently is receiving its New Jersey premiere, Niegel Smith directs a vibrant production with an excellent cast.”
– Ronni Reich, The Star-Ledger
Newly enlightened Paige is determined to forge a deliriously liberated world for her two wayward children: Isaac, recently discharged from the Marines under dubious circumstances; and Max, tender, jaded, and sculpting a third-sex gender identity for hirself. Hailed as “one of this country’s most heroic and disarmingly funny playwrights” (American Theatre Magazine), Magic welcomes back renowned theatre artist Taylor Mac (The Lily’s Revenge) with this hilarious drama.
“the best Bay Area play I’ve seen this season. In several seasons, in fact… Niegel Smith is the perfect director for what Mac calls ‘absurd realism.’ Though every gag line draws a laugh, each stammer, brief pause or elongated silence also hits a dramatic bulls-eye. And Smith’s pacing is spot on.”
– Woody Weingarten, The Marin Scope
Shakespeare’s great tragedy weaving ambition, seduction, and ruthlessness appears as a Year Three Graduate Acting production for the first time in decades. The path to the throne twists and turns into the way of dusty death, as a supernatural goad to the dark aspirations of Lord and Lady Macbeth transforms into a nightmare in the harsh light of day.
It’s Lady Rizo’s final performance before being ordained into the temple of glitter. Aggressively feminine and possessing a distinct absence of inhibition, she will attempt to lead you in a night praising the power of song, giggles, madness and glamorous glances. Will we survive? Yes – if her spectacular new gown has anything to say about it.
On the edge of the Black Sea, the greatest poet of the Roman Empire, Ovid, and an American/NATO colonel are forever transformed by a barbarian woman. Two millennia apart, boundaries of politics, time and desire continue to be shattered. Who will survive?
Burnt-out social worker Anne Colleen Simpson decides to leave the field on a high note, with a book detailing her career, but when Chee-Chee, a gifted twelve-year-old from the ‘projects’ collides into her life, she’s forced to confront his young mother and the shadows of her past. Anne and Chee-Chee develop an unlikely friendship that leads to an explosive encounter threatening both their futures.
Infused with the vibrant rhythm and verse of Hip-Hop culture, Seed weaves through the fault lines of a gentrified Harlem, begging the question: How far are you willing to go to protect the future of a community and its children?
“This masterpiece of theater explores, challenges, and provokes us to take some action” -NYTHEATER.COM
Have you seen the new neighbors? Richard Patterson is not happy. The family of black actors that has moved in next door is loud, tacky, shameless, and uncouth. And they are not just infiltrating his neighborhood—they threaten his reputation, his family, and his comfortably progressive lifestyle. This wildly theatrical, explosive play on race marks the major debut of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a member of the Public’s Emerging Writers Group.
His story inspired a nation. His music inspired the world. FELA!, is the true story of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, whose soulful Afrobeat rhythms ignited a generation. Inspired by his mother, a civil rights champion, he defied a corrupt and oppressive military government and devoted his life and music to the struggle for freedom and human dignity. FELA! is a triumphant tale of courage, passion and love, featuring Fela Kuti’s captivating music and the visionary direction and choreography of Tony-Award winner Bill T. Jones.
Ether Steeds is a ritualistic examination of the chasms between a mother, a daughter and the sea. Set against the back drop of rural North Carolina – cheap beer, anonymous gentlemen and the ashes of the dearly departed spur Mamma and her venus-fly-trap obsessed daughter, Skeeta, toward the inevitable. WINNER – Best Ensemble, FringeNYC
Eight hundred civilians are taken hostage during the performance of a hit Moscow musical. In the aftermath, the playwright is plagued by the story of his captor – a young woman willing to die for her cause – in an intense drama where one person’s patriotism is another’s act of terrorism.
A haunting incident onboard a NYC subway train explodes into an indictment of faith, class and personal responsibility.
Formicans are a wealth of knowledge. They have become quite adept at the annals of wisdom, and luckily their species has severe long-term memory deficiencies, so recording was easy. Visiting aliens do their best to interpret the absurd actions of a complex family unit living in a strange land – the suburbs of the United States.
Conversations in Tusculum reimagines the intense interaction among Brutus (Aidan Quinn), Cassius (David Strathairn), and Cicero (Brian Dennehy) leading up to the assassination of Julius Caesar, the leader they had once followed into battle but whom they have come to despise. Passionate in their beliefs but torn by their sense of loyalty, they struggle to continue believing in him despite their fear that his actions may pose great dangers to the nation.
In Suzan-Lori Park’s magnificently etched theatrical landscape, two African-American brothers, Lincoln and Booth, attempt to cheat fate as they navigate women, work, poverty, gambling, racism and their troubled upbringings.
Consumed by grief due to his father’s untimely death, the protagonist of Tennyson’s “little Hamlet” rages at a world of injustice and hypocrisy. When Maud, his beautiful childhood friend, resurfaces and gleams with the possibility for reconciliation and renewal, she becomes the one bright thing that may save him from the violent extremes of emotional triumph and despair. The New York premiere of the drama Tennyson’s contemporaries described as ” prose run mad.”
Music throbs. Drugs flow. Sex unites. It’s the 90’s. And the enticing world of the Circuit Party beckons. A comedic and unapologetic look into an exclusive world that inevitably comes crashing to an end by Monday morning.
It’s 1944 and the mysterious murder of a black Sergeant set’s off an exploration of the complicated anger and resentment that some African Americans have toward one another, and the ways in which many have absorbed white racist attitudes.
July 2005 (Here Arts Center; New York, NY)
Five amputated soldier’s from WWI to the Korean War to Shock and Awe arrive in the living room of American Family. Ushered through early morning news shows, fast food lines, a makeover by a queer-eyed-guy and ultimately landing in front of a television at the local Veteren’s Hospital – each of these forgotten heroes yells, whispers and sings to share their buried voice.
Six young people in the throes of puberty, overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves, learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser. This hilarious tale of overachievers’ angst chronicles the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime.
King Kong, African American men, and Frankenstein collide in humor-laced tales about theme restaurants featuring mutilation with dessert, and party motivators with major minstrel twists. Disposable Men is a richly interactive live multimedia performance. It explores the uncanny relationship that African American men and classic Hollywood monsters share . . . the unfounded fear of, and the imaginative ways that they are killed.
In 1963 Louisiana, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Kennedy’s assassination and the Vietnam war, the friendship between Caroline Thibodeaux, a divorced African American maid and Noah Gellman, the eight-year-old son of the Jewish family for whom she works, suffers from uncontrollable shifts. The acceptance of change – from taking money from a child to coping with memories of the past – does not come easily and threatens to crush Caroline’s relationships and spirit. It’s finally through her independent teenage daughter’s vision and strength that Caroline realizes that change can, in fact, set her free.
A deconstructed romp, splicing and dicing the original text of Adriane Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro with a maddening Africani score mixed live by Providence’s DJ Mikey! An easily forgettable, but none-the-less captivating 20-minute performance in loop. Proof that I needed to crawl before I could walk.