Roger Guenveur Smith's THE HENDRIX PROJECT Set for The Public's Under the Radar Festival
BRIC teams up with The Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival and CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP) to present the New York premiere of Roger Guenveur Smith and CNP's The Hendrix Project, January 11-14, 2018, at BRIC House (647 Fulton Street, Downtown Brooklyn), as part of The Public Theater's 2018 Under the Radar Festival.
This piece, developed at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), from the acclaimed playwright, performer, director, and longtime Spike Lee collaborator takes audiences back to New Year's Eve, 1969, when Jimi Hendrix's electronic blues trio, Band of Gypsys, played a legendarily funky concert at New York City's Fillmore East.
Here, 12 disciples have gathered in the upper balcony to bear witness to the heat Hendrix brings to a nation caught in mid-winter chill. As "bullets fly like rain," at home and abroad in Vietnam, spectators played by an ensemble cast movingly live through this iconic moment in rock and roll history, as the Sixties come to an end, and as the musician gives a revolutionary performance on his final New Year's Eve. With no spoken lines, the reactive movements and mannerisms of these observers ultimately speak volumes to the era, and to the timeless power of Hendrix's music.
Performances of The Hendrix Project take place January 11 at 7:30pm, January 12 & 13 at 7pm and 9:30pm, and January 14 at 4:30 and 7:30pm. Critics are welcome as of the first performance, which also serves as the official opening. Tickets, $25, can be purchased at publictheater.org or 212-967-7555. Running time is approximately 60 minutes, with no intermission.
Check out a trailer for the show below!
On December 31, 1969 and January 1, 1970, Jimi Hendrix played four ecstatic shows at the Fillmore East in his first all-black band (with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles)-and the recordings became Band of Gypsys, the last full-length album Hendrix released before his death at 27. The recording of the shows on which The Hendrix Project is based is at once an immense standalone work, and a bittersweet suggestion of the musical ground Hendrix would have continued to break. It bears the innovative infusion of funk and R&B, as well as the political injection of warlike sounds, into Hendrix's unparalleled rock style. As Rolling Stone described retrospectively, in 1987, those concerts "captured Hendrix with his spirit of adventure still in overdrive but his feet planted...on terra firma. Standing unusually still, his head bowed over his Fender Stratocaster in profound concentration, he had unleashed a rainbow barrage of firealarm feedback, knife-edge riffing, raw soulful melodicism and sunlight harmonies that arced over Cox and Miles's roadhouse stomp with almost classical grace."
Roger Guenveur Smith previously brought Huey P. Newton, Frederick Douglass, and Rodney King to life through visceral monologue performances. When he voiced a fragmented and poetized evocation of the latter in Under the Radar 2014, the New York Times called his writing, direction, and performance "sinuous, complicated, [and] deeply moving." Rodney King would go on to be reprised at BRIC House later that year, and to be documented onscreen for Netflix by Spike Lee, who had previously filmed his A Huey P. Newton Story, for PBS. The Guardian called the filmed Rodney King "a preacher's howl of anger and frustration at the personal and political forces which crushed King...without the emollient or lenient notes that a Hollywood treatment might attempt." With The Hendrix Project, Smith likewise eschews the Hollywood standard of recreating the spirit of an icon through facile biography. Rather, he takes the smartly insinuating route of evoking him via the impressions his presence left on others. Viewers get a sense of the power of Hendrix through the subjective responses of the twelve 1969 audience members they behold. The Hendrix Project gleefully disorients the nature of spectatorship, turning an audience of concertgoers at this era-encapsulating show into the eyes through which we see history reflected, and an icon rebuilt.
The Hendrix Project is conceived and directed by Roger Guenveur Smith, and developed in cooperation with Experience Hendrix LLC. The cast of The Hendrix Project includes Samantha Barrow, Morgan Camper, Hannah Cruz, Jasmine Gatewood, Heaven Gonzalez, Ariyan Kassam, Liam O'Donnell, Dante Rossi, Henita Telo, Max Udell, Ieva Vizgirdaite, and Christopher Wentworth.
Produced by Megan E Carter and Abby Marcus, the creative team includes Levi Lack (scenic design), Cameron Pieratt (lighting design), Maggie Clapis (costume design) and Marc Anthony Thompson (sound and video design). CNP's Artistic Director is Travis Preston, Technical Director is William Dang,Production Managers are Paul DiPietro and Kimberly Yeoman, Stage Manager is Sherrie Lofton, and Assistant Stage Manager is Evan Shen.
Roger Guenveur Smith adapted his Obie Award-winning solo performance of A Huey P. Newton Story into a Peabody Award-winning telefilm directed by his longtime colleague, Spike Lee. Lee's direction of Smith's Bessie Award-winning Rodney King marks the ninth collaboration in a relationship unparalleled in the American cinema.
Rodney King premiered on Netflix on April 28. Smith's historically-driven work for the international stage also includes Christopher Columbus 1992, Who Killed Bob Marley?, Juan and John, In Honor of Jean Michel Basquiat, The Watts Towers Project, Iceland, Two Fires, Patriot Act, The End of Black History Month, and with Mark Broyard, the "not-too-dark-comedy" Inside the Creole Mafia. For the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial of 2018, Mr. Smith will present his signature Fredrick Douglass Now, which he initially devised as an undergraduate and has since played at the Kennedy Center, The Public Theater and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. Mr. Smith has recently directed Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, Steven Berkoff's Agamemnon and The Hendrix Project at CalArts Center for New Performance, where he conducts his Performing History Workshop. Among Smith's many screen credits are the recently acclaimed Chi-Raq and Dope.
CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP) is the professional producing arm of California Institute of the Arts, established to provide a unique artist- and project-driven framework for the development and realization of original theater, music, dance and interdisciplinary projects. Extending the progressive work carried out at CalArts into a direct dialogue with professional communities at the local, national and international levels, CNP offers an alternative model to support emerging directions in the performing arts. It also enables CalArts students to work shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrated artists and acquire a level of experience that goes beyond their curriculum.
California Institute of the Arts has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools-Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater-CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions.
The Public is theater of, by, and for the people. Artist-driven, radically inclusive, and fundamentally democratic, The Public continues the work of its visionary founder Joe Papp as a civic institution engaging, both on-stage and off, with some of the most important ideas and social issues of today. Conceived over 60 years ago as one of the nation's first nonprofit theaters, The Public has long operated on the principles that theater is an essential cultural force and that art and culture belong to everyone. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham, The Public's wide breadth of programming includes an annual season of new work at its landmark home at Astor Place, Free Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, The Mobile Unit touring throughout New York City's five boroughs, Public Forum, Under the Radar, Public Studio, Public Works, Public Shakespeare Initiative, and Joe's Pub. Since premiering HAIR in 1967, The Public continues to create the canon of American Theater and is currently represented on Broadway by the Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda and John Leguizamo's Latin History for Morons. Their programs and productions can also be seen regionally across the country and around the world. The Public has received 59 Tony Awards, 169 Obie Awards, 53 Drama Desk Awards, 54 Lortel Awards, 32 Outer Critic Circle Awards, 13 New York Drama Desk Awards, and 6 Pulitzer Prizes.
BRIC is the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, and one of the largest in New York City. We present and incubate work by artists and media-makers who reflect the diversity that surrounds us. BRIC programs reach hundreds of thousands of people each year.
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Some of BRIC's most acclaimed programs include the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in Prospect Park, several path-breaking public access media initiatives, including the newly renamed BRIC TV, and a renowned contemporary art exhibition series. BRIC also offers education and other vital programs at BRIC House and throughout Brooklyn.
In addition to making cultural programming genuinely accessible, BRIC is dedicated to providing substantial support to artists and media makers in their efforts to develop work and reach new audiences.
BRIC is unusual in both presenting exceptional cultural experiences and nurturing individual expression. This dual commitment enables us to most effectively reflect New York City's innate cultural richness and diversity. Learn more at BRICartsmedia.org.
Pictured: The Hendrix Project; Photo by Nicolas Savignano.