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The Experience: ‘Hendrix Project’ recreates 1969 concert

Listening to a legend: A concert-goer acts out a scene during Jimi Hendrix’s New Year’s Eve concert in 1969, as part of director Roger Guenveur Smith’s “The Hendrix Project,” debuting at Fort Greene’s Bric House on Jan. 11.
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Party like it’s 1969!

Audiences can travel back in time to rock out at the Jimi Hendrix’s New Year’s Eve concert that marked the end of the ’60s in “The Hendrix Project,” debuting at Fort Greene’s Bric House on Jan. 11. The musical legend never makes a physical appearance in the play, but the audience hears his music as a dozen young fans jam out, said the show’s director, who is putting on the as part of the Public Theater’s “Under the Radar” Festival.

“The piece takes place in the balcony of the auditorium where 12 concert-goers are experiencing the concert, and we experience the concert through their eyes,” said Roger Guenveur Smith, who lives in California. “We never see Jimi, but we hear him.”

Smith uses an actual recording of the Hendrix show — released as the live album “Band of Gypsys” — from the Fillmore East venue in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The audio is a steady focal point in the ever-changing play, which features a dozen performers from a California arts university who invent their own choreography as their characters listen to the music, said Smith.

“The piece is largely improvised and no two shows are ever alike. The music stays the same, but the movements are open to improvisat­ion,” said Smith. “The play is very movement-driven, and I describe the movement as a kind of ‘Soul Train’ kabuki thing — it’s a combination of those forms of dance.”

The thespians researched the time period, which marked the end of the tumultuous 1960s — when activists protested against the Vietnam War, when there were raids against the Black Panthers, and when the United States sent a man to walk on the moon — and the start of the 1970s, said Smith, who also put on the one-man show “Rodney King” at Bric in 2014.

“The students prepared themselves digging into the archives, watching lots of documentary films — 1969 was a crucial year in American history. We attempt to bring all of that archival material into play,” he said.

Smith said he is excited to share the concert experience — which he never got to experience while the guitar hero was still alive — with audiences in the borough of Kings.

“We’re really happy to be in Brooklyn and it’s a great opportunity to share this work — and it’s particularly compelling to do this piece just across the river from where it actually took place,” he said.

“The Hendrix Project” at Bric House [647 Fulton St. at Rockwell Place in Fort Greene, (877) 987–6487, www.bricartsmedia.org]. Jan. 11 at 7:30 pm; Jan. 12–13 at 7 pm and 9:30 pm, Jan. 14 at 4:30 pm and 7:30 pm. $25.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Posted 12:00 am, January 9, 2018
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