Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Charles Smith is a member of the playwrights ensemble at the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago and is currently head of the Professional Playwriting Program at Ohio University, where he holds the title of Ohio University Presidential Research Scholar in the Arts and Humanities. Smith’s works, which typically explore issues surrounding the perceptions of race and politics from an African-American point-of-view, have been produced off-Broadway and at regional theaters around the country, including The Acting Company's 22-city tour of his play, Pudd’nhead Wilson. His honors include a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1996, and the Illinois Arts Council Governors Award in 1997, among others.
The Joyce Award supported Indiana Repertory Theatre’s commission of a new play by Smith that explores one of the darkest days in Indiana history: the 1930 Marion lynching. Smith related the story of two teenage black boys who were brutally lynched, and the triumphant escape of another, James Cameron, known to be the only living survivor of a lynching attempt alive today. While writing the play, Charles Smith interviewed historians, survivors, and activists; The IRT simultaneously launched a series of public awareness events to engage local and national organizations involved with civil and human rights.