Rodney Smith: Magnetic Theatre’s Renaissance Man

Rodney Smith is associate producer for The Magnetic Theatre. / Photo by Misha Schmiedecke.

A modern-day Renaissance man, Rodney Smith acts, writes, directs and serves as associate producer for The Magnetic Theatre. He also has done stand-up comedy, performed in a local rock ‘n’ roll band—and works as a professional photographer.

After performing with Montford Park Players, Smith accepted a role in a play at The Magnetic Theatre about five years ago. It was beginning of an ongoing relationship with the company that is now his theatre home.

While many actors struggle to find work, being cast in theatrical productions has not been difficult, Smith says.

“I kind of fell into it,” he says

“I like to cultivate genuine relationships with people,” Smith observes.

Through these collaborative efforts, and the guidance he has received from people, Smith has enjoyed success in his endeavors.

“So far, I haven’t done anything that’s sucked,” he says with a laugh.

Smith’s ability to work with people is paying off in his present role as associate producer for the theatre.

“The best thing I do is put a great crew together,” he says.

Smith has produced the Super Happy Trivia Challenge and the Super Happy Radio Hour, which audiences have enjoyed at The Magnetic Theatre. He also staged a two-day Super Happy Telethon as a benefit.

While comedy comes relatively easily to him, Smith says it can be challenging.

“For me, the hard thing about comedy is that you have to tell your truth in a different way,” he says. “Humor has to be based on truth. It’s got to be relevant.”

After performing in productions for a time at the theatre known for encouraging local playwrights, Smith decided to try his hand at writing a few years ago.

“I started this script for a three-act play,” he said.

The result was “Table 6,” a well-received production that became an award-winning comedy performed as dinner theatre.

“What I really love to do is tell stories,” Smith says. “That’s what I love about theatre: It’s the best way to tell a story.”

Plays that are based on universal themes endure, Smith observes.

“It’s why Shakespeare still holds up,” he says.

At The Magnetic Theatre, actors receive pay in an old-school way that goes back to the days of Shakespeare, says Andrew Gall, interim artistic director who works with Smith.

Performers receive dividends from ticket proceeds at the professional theatre, he explains.

When selecting plays for productions at the theatre, Gall says that the focus is both on local works and those from outside the area. The theatre produces a variety of plays, including many that take on provocative questions and social issues, encouraging audiences to think a bit deeper, he says.

“We try to find things that are stimulating and entertaining,” Gall says.

Serving as artistic director of a theatre requires careful attention to strategy and attending to the process of running a business, he remarks.

“One of the things we’re working on is creating a frame for sustainability,” Gall says. “You have to be honest about what works, and your mission…It’s tough, but doable.”

The Magnetic Theatre operates year-round at its location on Depot Street in the River Arts District of Asheville. 

An upcoming production at the theatre is “Doll,” written by Asheville-based writer, playwright Brenda Lunsford Lilly. The play based on Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama,“A Doll’s House,” opens April 19 and runs through May 5.  

For more information about The Magnetic Theatre, visit the website at www.themagnetictheatre.org.

By Sandra Barnes