Jim Tranquada

Award-winning actor, playwright, and director Roger Guenveur Smith '77 will return to Occidental College to teach and perform two of his best-known works as Occidental's 2011 G. William Hume Fellow in the Performing Arts.

On Friday, Feb. 4, Smith will perform his one-man show The Watts Towers Project, an intimate meditation on the nature of solo endeavor inspired by Simon Rodia's architectural masterwork. Immediately following the 7 p.m. performance in Occidental's Keck Theater, Smith will be awarded an honorary degree. A reception will follow.

Tickets for the Feb. 4 performance are $15 ($10 for senior citizens) and will be available at the door. For more information, call the Occidental Theater Department at (323) 259-2771. Directions to Occidental and a campus map can be found at /x119.xml.

Smith wrote the first of the biographical and historically oriented plays that have become his signature at Occidental. For his senior honors project in American Studies, the Los Angeles native created and performed An Evening With Frederick Douglass, based on his research at the Library of Congress. His Obie-winning A Huey P. Newton Story was turned into a Peabody-winning telefilm by director Spike Lee; his latest solo work, Juan and John, inspired by the remarkable friendship of baseball greats Juan Marichal and John Roseboro, will premiere locally at the Kirk Douglas Theater in May.

For Lee's Do the Right Thing, Smith created the stuttering hero Smiley, as well as an eclectic range of characters in Malcolm X, Get on the Bus, He Got Game, Eve's Bayou, King of New York, Deep Cover, All About the Benjamins, and American Gangster, for which he was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award. His latest film, Mooz-lum, is scheduled to open nationwide Feb. 11.

As Hume Fellow, Smith will teach an intensive course in which students will develop short solo performance pieces based on their own historical research. Each piece will be performed in a rehearsal setting for an open audience, and reprised at Occidental's Spring Arts Festival in April. Smith also plans to perform Frederick Douglass Now, his ever-fluid interpretation of Douglass' 19th-century writings, in a simple staged reading presentation for a campus-only audience.

Shared by the theater and music departments, the G. William Hume Fellowship in the Performing Arts was made possible by a generous gift from the G. William Hume Trust. Bill Hume '50 M'52 taught music, speech, and history at Occidental before being named director of Thorne Hall in 1958. He spent almost 20 years at Occidental, also serving as director of student activities. Previous Hume Fellows include violinist Hilary Hahn, singers Federica von Stade and Jennifer Larmore, and the comic theater ensemble Culture Clash.