Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith is the senior writer at the Reader; he began reviewing theater in 1980. He also writes a local history column. He has a Ph.D. in literature and critical theory from the University of California, Irvine, and wrote his doctoral dissertation on Shakespeare. He was the original writing director of two University of California freshman composition programs: the Humanities Core Course, at Irvine, and the Revelle Humanities/Writing Program at UCSD. Over the years, Jeff has dramaturged dozens of shows. Favorites include Sam Shepard’s Tooth of Crime, Peter Barnes’s Red Noses (both at the San Diego Rep), Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia (North Coast Rep), Things May Disimprove: Samuel Becket One-Acts (L&L Productions), and Shakespeare’s Hamlet (New Village Arts).

Articles by Jeff Smith

An in-house culture war that’s also funny

“You want this little white boy from Minnetonka to bring us some cows?”

Danai Gurira plays Michonne, the warrior in The Walking Dead. She co-starred in Black Panther, has won high-buck awards for writing and acting, and has founded or co-founded organizations for supporting women and African dramatic ...

A soup to bring Dad back to life

“We demanded the sublime on a platter.”

When Ray, a Korean-American, said he wanted to be a gourmet chef, his father loathed the idea. Cooking is “women’s work,” he said. It’s low class, uneducated. Ray became a chef anyway, and top-shelf at ...

Moon Over Buffalo: to perform farce well

"Like living in an asylum on the guards' day off."

Ken Ludwig’s farce Moon Over Buffalo takes place backstage at the Erlanger Theatre in 1953. For the North Coast Rep, Marty Burnett’s set is so authentic, it could have been transported by time machine from ...

A hard sit

You can escape Nazis, but you can’t escape family

Sometimes novelists tell a story backward, from finish to start. In theater, “reverse chronology” is rare. Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, one of the few successes, begins after the end of an affair and backpedals seven years ...

The cast could do much more

Doug’s ghost practically taunts Mike with forgiveness

Clint Black, country music star, produced his sixth studio album in 1995. Looking for Christmas explores the feelings the holidays generate, from standing “Under the Mistletoe,” to the wise, self-deprecating, “Slow as Christmas”: “Every Christmas ...

Shock space

Nora and Torvald end up on the bare wooden floor.

Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 begins where Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece A Doll’s House ends. After 15 years on her own in the world, Nora Helmer returns to the door she slammed on her ...

Pessimistic, paralyzed, and sexy

By comparison, happiness looks like a sweaty pig.

Act one, scene two, of Hamlet begins with jubilation. King Claudius and Queen Gertrude celebrate their marriage. Rhinish wine spills from gleaming goblets. Bright colors swirl around the stage. Over in a corner — usually ...

Dickens for a day

Drood became the first Broadway musical using audience participation for the ending.

Young Charles Dickens worked as a law clerk. He delivered documents and ran errands and was bored beyond tears. He wanted to be a court stenographer – record an entire trial verbatim – but it ...

Not so black-and-white

“Actually is about rape, but also The Title IX system which some accuse of making snap judgements.”

A friend compares history – i.e. what actually happened – to the Big Bang. He’s studied the JFK assassination for decades and says he can put three shooters in position: one in the Book Depository, ...

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