Niegel Smith

Niegel Smith is a Bessie Award winning theater director and performance artist. He is the Executive Artistic Director of NYC’s Obie Award winning theater, The Flea guiding the organization through its refounding as a hub for experimental art by Black, brown and queer artists. He is also a board member of A.R.T./New York and was a ringleader of Willing Participant, an artistic activist organization that whips up urgent poetic responses to crazy shit that happens.

His current directing projects include The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist, a multi-media opera and community ritual commissioned and produced by Hopkins Center for the Arts and Suzan-Lori Park’s Plays for The Plague Year produced by The Public Theater. His theater work has been produced at The Alley Theater, The Barbican, Classical Theatre of Harlem, The Flea, The Goodman Theatre, HERE Arts Center, Hip Hop Theatre Festival, The Invisible Dog, Luna Stage, The Melbourne Festival, Magic Theatre, Mixed Blood, the National Black Theatre, 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, and Under the Radar, and his participatory walks and performances have been produced by Abrons Arts Center, American Realness, The Brooklyn Museum, Dartmouth College, Elastic City, The Flea, 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.

Niegel most recently directed the wildly popular and critically-acclaimed jazz opera The Hang. For this work, he was nominated for a Drama League Award in best direction. He has also collaborated with some of the world’s most celebrated musicians including En Vogue and Jon Batiste at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory. Smith is co-director of the critically acclaimed ‘A 24-Decade History of Popular Music’, winner of the Kennedy Prize in Drama, Bessie Award, the Edwin Booth Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He associate directed the Tony Award winning musical FELA! – restaging that production in London, Lagos and its world tour, assistant directed the original 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, the MAP Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Stage and Film, Sundance Theatre Lab, Theater Communications Group, Tucker Foundation, Van Lier Fund and VoxFest. Before 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