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Roger Guenveur Smith to perform 'Rodney King' at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) on January 22.

Performance and panel at CalArts will explore King as “the first reality star.”

Celebrated solo performer Roger Guenveur Smith will return to CalArts to perform Rodney King, presented by the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Center for New Performance in association with the Office of the President, and the CalArts Committee on Equity and Diversity.  Rodney King will be performed for one night only on Tuesday, January 22, 2013, at 8 p.m. in the Walt Disney Modular Theater on the CalArts campus.  Admission is free.  For reservations, please visit http://www.calarts.edu/calendar.

Rodney King is inspired by the late Rodney Glen King, who was beaten by members of the Los Angeles Police Department in 1991. The officers' acquittal on all major charges in 1992, despite an internationally broadcast video of the incident, sparked the deadliest civil unrest in United States history. King's autobiography, The Riot Within, was published in 2012 and he died June 17 of that year at his Rialto home. He was 47.

“I was exceedingly moved when I got the news that Rodey King had passed. I wanted to know why it was that Rodney King should matter to me and why, perhaps, he should matter to an audience,” says Smith.  “The piece is actually set up in a series of questions. The man who was called Glen by his family and friends, and who became this person, ‘Rodney King,’ was a kind of multimedia invention.  I call him the first reality television star.”

The performance will be followed by a panel discussion The Echo of Nightsticks: Recording, Reenacting and Remembering Rodney King. The panel is convened and moderated by Douglas Kearney, CalArts School of Critical Studies faculty, poet, performer and cultural critic.

“Roger Guenveur Smith’s Rodney King troubles the line between documentary, biography and theater in its recovery of King,” notes Kearney. “In light of more recent high-profile incidents of police and parapolice brutality, Rodney King is hauntingly urgent and invites us to ask broader questions about the aesthetics and politics of re-enactment; how art, mass and social media construct myths; what a city wants to remember; and how race often finds itself at sites of violence committed in the community’s name.”

Participants in the panel include Roger Guenveur Smith; Amanda Beech (artist, writer, Dean of CalArts School of Critical Studies); Jervey Tervalon (novelist, dramatist, editor of Geography of Rage: Remembering the Los Angeles Riot of 1992); Douglas Kearney and others.

The sound design for Rodney King is by Marc Anthony Thompson with lighting design by Jose Lopez. A workshop production was presented by Bootleg Theater August and September 2012. It will premiere there this April.

Roger Guenveur Smith adapted his Obie Award-winning solo performance of A Huey P. Newton Story into a Peabody Award-winning telefilm, scored by his longtime collaborator Marc Anthony Thompson. For the international stage, Smith and Thompson have also devised Christopher Columbus 1992, Two Fires, Who Killed Bob Marley?, The Watts Towers Project, Iceland, Juan and John, and Twenty Twenty, commissioned by the Hammer Museum for the recent exhibition Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980. Smith has also created and performed In Honor of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Frederick Douglass Now, Patriot Act, The End of Black History Month, and, with Mark Broyard, the award-winning Inside the CreoIe Mafia. His eclectic range of film credits includes Do the Right Thing, Get on the Bus, Deep Cover, Hamlet, Eve’s Bayou and American Gangster, for which he was nominated for the Screen Actors' Guild Award. He is currently starring in the acclaimed indie features Mooz-Lum and Better Mus’ Come, in which he plays the Prime Minister of Jamaica. Roger directed the Ovation and Bessie Award-winning Radio Mambo: Culture Clash Invades Miami and will direct the West Coast premiere of Katori Hall's The Mountaintop this season at San Diego Repertory Theater. He has taught extensively, most recently at CalArts, where he directs his Performing History and Autobiography in Progress workshops.

CalArts’ Center for New Performance (CNP), the professional producing arm of California Institute of the Arts, was established in 1999 as a forum for the creation of groundbreaking theatrical performance.  Originally entitled the Center for New Theater, the name was expanded in 2005 to reflect the broad range of the Center’s interests.   Seminal artists from around the world are brought to CNP to develop work that expands the language, discourse, and boundaries of contemporary theater and performance.

CalArts is committed to a diverse and equitable environment in the workplace, within the classrooms, studios and beyond. We achieve this, in part, through the presentation and creation of effective and thought-provoking programming around questions of equity and diversity.  The Diversity Committee was created to foster an open dialogue among CalArts students, faculty and staff and to address issues relating to diversity on our campus and beyond.  calarts.edu/about/diversity

Last edited by mcrane on Jan 17, 2013
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