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Roger Guenveur Smith to Perform Theatre Tour de Force in “Rodney King”

September 9, 2016

Powerful Solo Play Traces America’s Racial Past and Present

Roger Guenveur Smith in the play Rodney KingMiddlebury, VT—History, poetry, and tragedy collide when stage and film actor Roger Guenveur Smith (American Gangster, Malcolm X) tackles the thorny odyssey of Rodney King, caught in the glare of the national spotlight as the victim of police brutality that ignited the 1992 Los Angeles riots. In this riveting solo theatrical performance, Smith offers a meditation on a flawed, good-hearted man and reveals America’s endlessly complicated relationship with its racial past and present. This performance will kick off the Middlebury Performing Arts Series’ 97th season on September 30 and October 1 at the Mahaney Center for the Arts.

“Roger Guenveur Smith gets it all and gets it brilliantly”—New York Times. 

This powerful solo theatre work is a mix of spoken word poetry, strong monologue, urban styling, and actual broadcast media clips that all add up to a tour de force performance that is just as relevant today as when Smith originally improvised it at Bootleg Theater in L.A. in 2012, at the 20th anniversary of the beating. The play’s distinguished run has since included The Public, Penumbra, and Woolly Mammoth Theaters; The Tate Modern Museum; and Bric Arts, Brooklyn, where it earned a Bessie Award. The play was recently directed for the screen by Smith’s longtime colleague, Spike Lee.

Roger Guenveur Smith is an accomplished actor for both stage and screen, who has made a career of acclaimed performances that also tackle important social and racial issues. He adapted his Obie Award-winning solo performance of A Huey P. Newton Story into a Peabody Award-winning telefilm. Rodney King is the latest in a body of history-infused work for the international stage, which also includes Frederick Douglass Now, Juan and John, The Watts Towers Project, Iceland, Two Fires, Who Killed Bob Marley?, In Honor of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Patriot Act, The End of Black History Month, and, with Mark Broyard, Inside the Creole Mafia, cited by L.A. Weekly as Production of the Year for both its premiere and revival runs.

Smith’s many film credits include the recently distinguished Dope and Chi-Raq and the greatly anticipated film The Birth of a Nation, which has garnered rave reviews at the 2016 Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals. In Spike Lee’s Oscar-nominated Do the Right Thing, Smith created the stuttering hero Smiley. He was nominated for a Screen Actors’ Guild Award for his performance in American Gangster. HBO viewers will recognize Smith from his starring roles in the Oz and K Street series and Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives.

Smith studied at Yale University and Occidental College and has taught at both institutions, as well as Cal Arts, where he directs his Performing History Workshop.

While at Middlebury, Smith will give two public performances, engage with audiences at post-performance Q&As, and meet with Middlebury College students to discuss his work and process. These activities are sponsored by the Performing Arts Series and the Theatre Program.

The two performances of “Rodney King” will take place on Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1, 2016, both at 8:00 P.M., in the Seeler Studio Theatre of the Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts. Due to adult language and content, this performance is for mature audiences only. The Mahaney Center is located on the campus of Middlebury College, at 72 Porter Field Road, just off Route 30 south/S. Main Street. Free parking is available curbside on Rt. 30 or in the Center for the Arts parking lot, in rows marked faculty/staff/visitors. Tickets are $20 for the general public; $15 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti, and other ID card holders; and $6 for Middlebury College students. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or go to

Photo credits: Patti McGuire

Mahaney Arts Center
Middlebury College
South Main St./Route 30 South
72 Porter Field Rd.
Middlebury, VT 05753
(802) 443-3168 phone
(802) 443-2834 fax