Lynel Gardner is a California native who started his professional acting career in Los Angeles, as one of the original members of the critically acclaimed performance ensemble, The Hittite Empire Performance Group. The group gained national and international attention with “Prometheus on a Black Landscape the Core” – a play that questioned the lack of evidence surrounding the CENTRAL PARK 5 rape case in April of 1989. And the play, ” For Black Boys Who Had Considered Homicide When The Streets Were To Much”. A call and response to the Broadway, Obie Award-winning play by Ntozake Shange called, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” Ntozake Shange, actually came to see the Hittite play For Black Boys in Los Angeles, but could not finish watching the play, because she had suffered the loss of her own nephew to homicide.
The Hittites were the first L.A. artists to ever perform at the Lincoln Center Theater in the New York prestigious, “SERIOUS FUN FESTIVAL”. Lynel was also one of the founding members of the sound and art group called BLACK MADRID, the Hittite Empire’s alter-ego. Their recording of “Reginald Denny He ain’t Dead, Oops Upside His Head” during the L.A. Riots, caused a national uproar, and caught the attention of the FBI. The Hittite Empire Performance Group, were one of the first artist to have as their corporate sponsor, THE CROSS COLORS clothing brand. A clothing brand that was embraced by the rising hip hop movement of the 1980’s. Their many works dealing with the issues of the day, started to bring them comparisons to the 1960’s group, THE LAST POETS.
While their work was being praised by the public at large, at the same time it was also being ridiculed and criticized by the major newspapers, news outlets, and critics alike, as being not “Real theater “and “amateurish”. The Hittites then pulled a Coup de’etat, by appearing on the cover of THEATRE JOURNAL. Not bad for a bunch of amateurs. What the Hittites realized ultimately, is that not only does controversy sell, but a critic is the opinion of only one person. That cannot be compared, to a sold out show. Eventually the critics came around, and would write about the Hittites even if we were doing nothing. For example ” The Hittites are doing nothing at all this month”. L.A. Times.
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The Hittite Empire Performance Group, helped to bring about the second coming of the Avant Garde Movement in America. A movement that started in Los Angeles in the late 1980’s, and then spread around the world.
Lynel wrote, performed and toured his original, one-man play Black Son – No Father in Europe. The play was sponsored by British Airways and The Institute of Contemporary Art-London. The play toured in five cities in London, including at the National Festival of Scotland, and at the National Festival of Belgium. During Belgium’s first ever Black History Month. Lynel being the premiere artist at the Belgium festival. Garnered him the front page of Belgiums National paper and Radio Show. He also performed the play live for the British Broadcasting Company Radio. His BBC performance went live, over the entire UK. While performing in Scotland, Lynel was asked to have his one man show video performance, be held at the archive of the National Review of Live Art (The Collection) UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL Senate House, through perpetuity. Lynel has yet to tour his show in America. That is now called, STORIES I NEVER TOLD MY FATHER. He states that ” I wrote this work as an American play, for an American audience.”
Lynel founded “Theater as Prevention” ,a company he created to teach theatrical skills and love of theater to At-Risk youth. His company motto is, “Saving a child, one play at a time.” He also collaborates with like-minded youth-oriented organizations like The Mark Taper Forum Young Conservatory, The UCLA Art Extension, The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival Youth Theatre, Cultural Odyssey Emergency Report Theater for At Risk Youth, Pajero Valley Watsonville School District Drama Program, San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and San Bruno Jail “Resolve to Stop the Violence Project”, East Palo Alto Police Department Youth Summit, Theater Works for Schools Play Projects of Palo Alto, THE GRATEFUL DEAD PROJECT AVARY, – a camp for kids with incarcerated parents.
In 1991, Lynel won the Brody Foundation Fellowship for his experimental documentary film work. He also sat on various art panels including The Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County and Robert Bly’s MEN’s MOVEMENT PANEL. Lynel currently heads the Sonny Liston Estate and is developing a docu-drama about his grandparents, Geraldine and Sonny Liston. His book, “Beast: The Deconstruction of Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston” is available on Amazon.