Charles Smith’s plays have been produced off-Broadway and from coast to coast by theaters such as Victory Gardens Theater, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Goodman Theatre, New Federal Theatre, The Acting Company, People’s Lights & Theatre Company, Penumbra, Crossroads Theatre Company, Penguin Repertory, Ujima Theatre Company, The Colony Theatre, St. Louis Black Rep, Seattle Rep, Jubilee Theatre, Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Berkeley Rep, The Robey Theatre Company, and Ensemble Theatre in Cleveland.
Many of this plays use various historical contexts to explore contemporary issues of race, identity, and politics in America. His work spans a gamut from contemporary investigations of historic icons such as Denmark Vesey, Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Dubois, and Alexandre Dumas, to examinations of race and politics in a more current setting such as the impact of the end of segregation on Chicago’s Southside.
“The strengths of Smith’s theatre collection are numerous and exhilarating. His characters are original and surprising, often vexing and exasperating, but they each have their piece to contribute. Smith’s dramas are persuasive without being didactic, and without suggesting simple conclusions. They are eloquent and poignant, but with a punch. Something like Carson McCullers without the malaise, or Spike Lee without the chatter. These are smart, profoundly felt, demanding scripts that refuse to pander to our expectations. The Gospel According to James and Other Plays belongs on the shelf of anyone with a sincere love for relevant, powerful theatre.”
This collection of five award-winning plays by Charles Smith includes Jelly Belly, Free Man of Color, Pudd’nhead Wilson, Knock Me a Kiss, and The Gospel According to James. Powerful, provocative, and entertaining, these plays have been produced by professional theatre companies across the country and abroad. The collection is now available through most outlets including Swallow Press.
Knock Me a Kiss walks away with nine AUDELCO Awards including Best Dramatic Play. Awardees include André De Shields, Marie Thomas, Charles Smith and Chuck Smith.
On Monday, November 14, 2011, Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre and Legacy Creative Arts Co.’s production of Charles Smith’s Knock Me a Kiss was the toast of the 39th Annual AUDELCO “VIV” Awards, given in recognition of Black Excellence in Theatre, at Harlem Stages within Aaron Davis Hall, located at the Marion Anderson Theatre, on 133th Street and Convent Avenue in New York City.
In addition to top honors for Best Dramatic Play, Knock Me a Kiss won 9 of the 13 categories for which was it was nominated: Charles Smith (Playwright), Chuck Smith (Director-Dramatic), André De Shields (Lead Actor), Marie Thomas (Supporting Actress), Shirley Prendergast (Lighting), Ali Turns (Costumes), Anthony Davidson (Set Design), Bill Toles (Sound Design).
Knock Me a Kiss is a fictional account inspired by the actual events surrounding the 1928 marriage of W.E.B. Du Bois’ (Andre De Shields) daughter Yolande (Erin Cherry) to one of Harlem’s great poets, Countee Cullen (Sean Phillips). The marriage marked the height of the Harlem Renaissance and was viewed as the perfect union of Negro talent and beauty. It united the daughter of America’s foremost Black intellectual, cofounder of the NAACP and publisher of Crisis Magazine, with a young poet whose work was considered to be one of the flagships for the New Negro movement. The marriage is a triumph of pomp and pageantry but failed to be a union of man and woman.
Black Theatre Radio interviewed the producer Woodie King Jr., along with members of the cast during the AUDELCO Award ceremony. To view excerpts from this interview, follow the video link.
Charles Smith for Playwriting André De Shields for Lead Actor Erin Cherry for Lead Actress Chuck Smith for Director of a Dramatic Production Gillian Glasco for Supporting Actress Marie Thomas for Supporting Actress Sean Phillips for Supporting Actor Morocco Omari for Supporting Actor Shirley Prendergast for Lighting Anthony Davidson for Set Design Ali Turns for Costume Design Bill Toles for Sound Design New Federal Theatre and Legacy Creative Arts Co. for Dramatic Production of the Year