Actor-playwright Roger Guenveur Smith's A Huey P. Newton Story, the award-winning theatrical monologue seen in Los Angeles and in an extended run at The Public Theater in 1997, is being documented by Spike Lee for a TV film starring the author.
Principal photography began Nov. 18 in Manhattan, with Smith starring in the solo story of Louisiana-reared black activist Huey P. Newton, the controversial Black Panthers leader who overflowed with contradictions and manic energy. The performance won Smith an Obie Award and three NAACP Awards. The film is a theatrical-style picture that preserves the stage show (with audience members included) and enhances it with archival footage of Newton.
The movie is to be seen on BET Movies in May 2001, with subsequent broadcasts on PBS and African Heritage Network.
Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense as a response to white racism in America, and the growing feeling that Martin Luther King's pacifist call for unilateral brotherhood wasn't quite getting the job done. He was murdered in Oakland, CA, in 1989. The self-directed stage monologue was taken from Newton's own written and recorded words and augmented with a soundscape designed by Marc Anthony Thompson. Sets and lighting for Huey P. Newton at The Public were by David Welle.
Previous Smith works in which he's performed include Frederick Douglass Now, Inside The Creole Mafia and Christopher Columbus 1992. He also acted in the Public's 1989 Coriolanus and directed Culture Clash's Off Broadway show, Radio Mambo. A Huey P. Newton Story played 73 performances in The Public's LuEsther Hall in 1997. Filming was at The Angel Orensanz Foundation Center for the Arts in New York City.