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Theatre may be dark, but we are turning the spotlight on! NLT wants to celebrate theatre creators and change makers that we admire, that inspire us, and that we think are acting as a light in their community. Join us each month as we uplift the voices that are working to positively impact our industry and our fellow humans.

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Lindsay Smiling is a Philadelphia based theatre artist near and dear to our hearts. A masterful performer of both classical and contemporary text, Lindsay is a member of the Wilma Theater's HotHouse Company, and is frequently seen on their stage (and currently in the Wilma's streaming production of Minor Character). Lindsay is an adjunct professor at Temple University, and a founding member of the Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia. We at NLT are particularly grateful for Lindsay's loving leadership as a director, having recently helmed our production of Citizen: An American Lyric with care, creative vision, and profound kindness. Lindsay's is a voice we deeply value in our community.

NLT: When were you introduced to theatre, and when did you know it was something you would pursue professionally?


LS: I didn’t really have much exposure to theater as a kid. Besides a couple elementary school plays and reading Shakespeare in high school, theater was not part of my world. After high school, I was really searching for what I wanted to do and I found myself at College of DuPage, a community college just outside of Chicago. I was taking a ton of different classes, from mathematics to architecture to meteorology, searching for something that I latched onto. I ran into a friend in the arts building who said he was taking an acting class. I thought, “That might be fun”. Long story short, I kept taking classes, transferred to Illinois State University and kept taking classes. All of the sudden I had to decide if this is something I really wanted to do. I decided to really focus on it and went to graduate school at Temple University. That was really when I decided to give it a go.


NLT: Of all the roles you’ve filled, on and off-stage, is there one that has challenged you the most?


LS: Stepping into doing more directing has been a wonderful challenge. Being in a room where all of the artists feel they have agency and are cohesive on a project is something that I desire as an actor. As a director it’s my job to make that happen. 


NLT: Is there a part of yourself that you see recurring in your work?


LS: I’m always looking for honesty on stage. I’ve noticed I started looking for the moment in the play when the character and myself are completely exposed and vulnerable. In these moments I never exactly know what’s going to happen and I discover something essential about myself each night. In Kill Move Paradise, it was the list of names. In Passage, it was the scene where B and F are no longer friends. In Midsummer Night’s Dream, it was when Oberon sees Titania with Bottom.  Most recently, in Minor Character, it was when I came out with the gun and somewhat refused to do the rest of the scene. I’m looking for those moments where I can bluntly ask “who am I really?”. I hope the audience is engaging with that question for themselves as well.


NLT: You’re a member of the Wilma Theater’s HotHouse Company. Can you describe the HotHouse for those who are unfamiliar, and share what you’ve found rewarding as a member? 


LS: The HotHouse is the Wilma Theater’s resident acting company. We meet regularly to practice a variety of acting methodologies, explore plays, and work with other theater practitioners from around the world. Much of our focus is on the body, the breath and finding ways to liberate our physical selves when presented with text. The HotHouse members are some of the most important people in my development as an artist. Having a place to regularly train, practice, and experiment is invaluable. It’s an absolute gift and when we have the opportunity to work on a production together, the immediacy we have as an ensemble is palpable. 


NLT: You are one of the founding members of the Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia. Can you share with our audience what BTAP is and how they serve our Greater Philadelphia community? 


LS: The Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia was founded in 2020 during the pandemic. It basically came out of a zoom meeting that several Philadelphia Black artists were in and wanted to find a way to support and promote Black theater artists. Philadelphia has a majority Black population, but you would never know looking at our theater community. We wanted to find a way to help support the Black artists already working as well as foster the next generation of Black theater makers. Right now, we are offering a grant of up to $2000 to help Black artists produce their work. Having art that represents the community is a boon for everyone.


NLT: Very recently, you directed Citizen: An American Lyric for New Light. Can you share about your experience directing with the company for the first time?


LS: I’m so thrilled to be part of the New Light Family. I’ve known Newton for a few years now and getting to know Tom and Lena was a delight. All incredibly generous individuals who just want to take care of the artists they hire. Working on Citizen with a relatively small budget was a huge challenge. It’s more of a poem than a play and trying to put that into digital format was a puzzle that I was constantly rethinking. Lena, Tom and Newton showed nothing but trust in my abilities and did everything they could to set me up to succeed. I would love to collaborate with NLT again. They’re just beautiful people.


NLT: Why is theatre, as a medium, appealing to you? What about it challenges you?


LS: Each performance informs the next. A line may have more nuance and you hear in a different way. There may be a news story that you read that changes how you see a moment. And the audiences’ reactions are constantly subtly shaping the timing of each scene. You learn every time you go through a performance. So, there is a beautiful opportunity for the show to grow from night to night. To get deeper, richer and fuller. The great challenge is to be open to it everytime.


NLT: Why do you think, even as a bounty of streaming content is available online, especially in these socially-distant times, live theatre continues to persevere? 


LS: There is something about theater that is very spiritual for me. This has to do with the very communal nature of theater. Going through a story or an experience with a group of people taps into something very human. There’s meaning in the experience of it. Generally, we want to be around other people. Streaming content is great. It gives me an idea of what people are doing across the country and abroad. It also provides for greater accessibility for those who going out for a live performance is less feasible. However, I think people will always want to get together in some way. Whether it’s a concert, a sporting event, or theater, I think this desire to experience something together, will keep us congregating. Theater is an art form that speaks directly to that desire.


NLT: Is there a person, cause, or event in your life that you return to when you are in need of motivation to keep going?


LS: When I need motivation, I try to find stillness. There’s a lot of noise in the world. A lot of distraction. When I can find some stillness, I ask myself “What wants to happen right now?” Sometimes it takes a while, but an impulse usually arises. And it’s usually distinct. I try my best to follow that impulse to see where it takes me. It’s like looking for little adventures.


NLT: What is the last piece of writing you read that you had to share with a friend?


LS: My Grandmother’s Hands ~ Resmaa Menakem


NLT: What was the last song or album you listened to that you had on repeat?


LS: Black to the Future ~ Sons of Kemet


NLT: What’s the last television show, movie, or recorded theatre piece you watched that deeply moved you?


LS: The National Theatre’s production of Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry.

Learn about previous Spotlight Artists