In his brilliantly imagined, Obie Award-winning show, Roger Guenveur Smith explores the life of the controversial Black Panther leader through a series of improvisations based on Newton’s own words and writings. Biography, satire, and socio-political commentary blend within a landscape of fantastic sound design to create a provocative, surreal and always surprising portrait of the complex times in which he lived. Written, performed, and directed by Roger Guenveur Smith. Sound design by Marc Anthony Thompson.
The documentary is based for the most part on Huey P. Newton‘s life. Newton grew up in Oakland after his family moved from Louisiana due to the military opportunities during WWII. Co-founder of the Black Panther Party, Newton served as Minister of Defense, and in effect was the BPP’s leader, writing the Party’s 10-Point Platform and Program alongside co-founder Bobby Seale. Convicted of voluntary manslaughter of a police officer in September 1968, Newton spent the next twenty months in prison before being released after his conviction was quashed on a technicality. The BPP had transformed itself in this period, and Newton struggled to cope with the demands placed on him, a situation that was not helped by his increasing consumption of drugs and alcohol. During the 1970s Newton studied at University of California Santa Cruz, where he obtained a PhD in the History of Consciousness program. His behavior became increasingly erratic during this period, as the BPP collapsed and his drug addiction took hold. On August 22, 1989 Newton was shot and killed in Oakland.